Discover The Power of the Silhouette

I had long noticed I liked silhouette portraits but I'd really never given it much thought. Then one day I was browsing through thousands of my Hawaii family photography images looking for a particular photo when I noticed my eye kept stopping on the silhouettes. That's when I noticed that in a "counter intuitive" way, they were actually emotionally stronger. In a weird way, removing information (the flash in this case) actually improved the storytelling aspect of the image.

Photography is at its best when it's telling a story or conveying an emotion. A powerful image tells a story that resonates deep inside us at less than conscious level. The power of the silhouettes lies in the basis that it removes all the distractions of smiles, colors and details, leaving only a two dimensional profile that, conversely, can make it for stronger.

Look at the two images above... same family, photos taken just 20 seconds apart. Notice how without being able to see their faces, the silhouette image tell us this is a family and we can even see the attitudes of eachof them in their stances. We get the same information in the well lit image...but the story is not so "in your face" because our minds are now looking at the faces and clothes to determine the story, not their outlines. In an odd way, by removing some information, the information that is left stands out stronger (this is also part of the power of black and white photography)

That is the power of the silhouette! By turning off the flash, we can often get more powerful and poignant images.

Silhouettes have always been so simple, so easy to take, that I never took them seriously for a long time. It usually requires a lot of focus on getting the right camera settings and flash exposures, checking for smiles, open eyes, along with a hundred other details to make sure I get a proper portrait. A silhouette, however, only requires metering for the sky exposure and adjusting body parts. It was only when I began to notice that my favorite images were silhouettes that I came to see the power in their simplicity.