Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Silhouettes

Silhouettes!  I don't have many from regular shooting.  In fact I only have one that comes to mind.

I shot this a while ago when I stepped out of my comfort zone to shoot my neice's wedding as a wedding gift...

BAGMAN:  "Because you were too cheap to actually buy anything!"

...and anyway, during the ceremony, I caught site of this guy, one of the groom's friends and I started moving around the church trying to get the right angle, tripping over people and trying unsuccessfully to be unintrusive.  I shot this just as the groom was placing the ring on the bride's finger so I completely missed that one and heard about it later:  "What were you thinking?!!  Missing the ring part??!!"  Which is why I don't like shooting weddings.


"Ten Easy Steps to a Christmas Present your friends will love"

Silhouettes!  A couple of years ago, I started playing with making silhouette portraits as Christmas gifts and today you are all in luck because I'm going to give you the recipe for Christmas presents guaranteed to make mothers cry that good kind of cry that makes you know you did good.

Step One: take pictures of their children in profile against a bright sky or any flat blackground:
  In this case, I was shooting Barclay, who I have written about before and his brother, Will, adult children of my wife's best friend.

Step two: because you eventually want two framed photos facing each other you have to flip one...(or you could tell one of them to turn around when you first shoot, of course. Duh.

Step Three: using any digital photo's not so sophisticated that you need Photoshop...most will do cut out the sky part leaving just the head-area.  And you fill the entire area with black color.  (Or maybe blacking it out is really Step Four)

Step Five (or Four): Clean up the silhouette and copy and paste it over the background you want.

With Barclay and Will I started with a sunset because I had liked that effect before but hated it now and tried clouds instead.

Blah.  Also, I forgot to mention that first (Step one-half?) you need to have your frame in mind.

This can be fun, running around antique shops and yard sales trying to find a matching set of frames...preferably with oval mattes.  So I did have something I needed to match and the dorky sky stuff wasn't cutting it.  Here is the frame.

So I was looking for something greenish or goldish for a background.  So I guess that STEP THREE AND A HALF OR FOUR AND A HALF is: Find a background.  So I went around shooting gold bases of lamps, trees, even a gold shirt of Karen's.

This wasn't working out too well.  For awhile I thought about the green trees and considered that a black silhouette wouldn't have enough contrast but...HEY!...who says a silhouette has to be black.  I could match the gold in the frame with a gold silhouette. I felt really creative and out of the box and

AAARGH!  Worse and worse!  This was definitely going in the wrong direction!   So I lay down on the leather couch which is my favorite place to do almost anything and looked up to the heavens for inspiration...and noticed my ceiling fan.


And STEP SOMETHING OR OTHER:  Paste it, print it, frame it...I guess that was more than one step but I'm sure you've got it figured out. 

And the final result is below.  Actually I never shot both final framed prints.  The only pseudo-real shot I have is of Barclay and it is actually made up of photoshop layers I was using to get an idea of what it would look like before I blew a bundle on paper and ink.  But it is close to what the final product looked like.  And, yes, Barclay and Will's mom got teary when she saw it. 

This Christmas I am working on one for my neighbors, Steve and Nancy.  They are always doing stuff for us, lending their truck, etc.  And last spring I noticed a rare moment when both their sons were home at the same time and I called them over and shot them against the sky and swore them to secrecy.  I have the frames but not the mattes.  More yard sale fun.  Or I'll have to learn to cut oval mattes which scares me. 

But there is no copyright on this and despite my inability to count steps it is pretty easy.  I thought briefly about submitting this to Good Housekeeping's Holiday Craft issue but realized I need technical assistance to figure out how many easy steps there were.  And I'd rather share it with y'all instead anyway.


  1. Hey Mark. Thank you for the tutorial. I love the tips. I never knew you could do this with a photo editing program. Pretty cool. Oh, and the wedding silhouette is pretty awesome.

  2. Ohhhhh I love it. I couldn't seem to do it at all! I gave up. I surrender badly and rarely....always messily in a heap ...clinging.

    AND what a darling you are ...your neighbour is going to love love those done for Christmas.

  3. Sorry, Sarah - I have the same problem with all those "some assembly required" instructions. Or recipies. (1) Mix ingredients. (2) Cook ingedients.

  4. Thanks for the project idea. I may attempt this sometime. I think you ought to submit this to Martha Stewart and go on her show!

  5. I play around with my photos but hadn't thought of this...thank you for the idea's :)

  6. LOL these are wonderful!! How cool is this!! Great shootout!! Sarah

  7. very nice take on the topic - I think this is called and end-run win?. Remind me of this if I ever ask you directions to the local McDonalds.... I can hear it now - Take a left then another then a right no no no take a right then....
    I love your blog the humor makes my coffee taste good...

  8. I think it would work for most people with time, a good camera, patience and great antique shops to procure great frames. As for me, even your simple instructions prove too difficult.

  9. Well very nice. Not only a photo submission but a tutorial on cutting and framing. You are a big terry bear. So kind and creative. We can forgive you that you can't count. Blessings

  10. You should have charged us to view that assignment.

    Great job. Have a great weekend.

  11. I'm going to bookmark this so I can see if I'm smart enough to do it with my grandchildren. Thanks so much!

  12. I love it, and actually thought of doing this for the assignment this week, but didn't get the time to devote to it, but now that there are something like 77 days until Christmas, I might be able to carve out the time to do it.

  13. Hey, this is great! And since I have a new camera I'm experimenting with stuff anyway! I love it!

    Have a great weekend!


  14. Great pictures Mark and I learned something new! Always an adventure coming here!

  15. what a cool idea! thanks for the info. wedding shot is awesome!!

  16. wonderful post - so helpful. thanks!

  17. I learned something and now I can make many a mother cry! Really! And BTW these were great :)

  18. That was a terrific post. Fun and informative. I'm going to have a go at that!

  19. I love that first photo, awesome! can even see some of his beard!

  20. This is a great idea. I'll have to find some time this winter to try it. Reminds me of my scanning project. Which, I will have to do again. I absolutely love the ceiling fan photo.

  21. Great post! Thank you for sharing your creative ideas and a "how to" lesson.

  22. LOL - I love your lesson! Maybe I'll try it this Christmas.

  23. Now, if you learn to cut a silhouette by looking at a kid from down the street you can get a job at Disneyland :) The happiest place on earth is calling....

  24. I love it when I learn something new! Great job on the silhouettes and the lesson.