how to: make a pregnancy silhouette portrait

Below is my most favorite maternity photo of myself. I’m 39 weeks pregnant and I felt lovely and round and wonderful. I told my mom what I had in mind and she made it happen. We took them against my big West facing windows at sunset. There’s something about the shape of a pregnant woman that I am completely enamored with, and silhouetting her is one of the best ways to capture her curves.

39 weeks.
Yesterday I took photos of Emily, 38 weeks pregnant, with the same idea in mind. Emily is one of those pregnant ladies that doesn’t look pregnant from behind. In fact, if you put your thumb over her belly and close one eye she doesn’t even look pregnant from the side or the front. I’ve been wanting to do a post called “Love Your Histogram” for a long time, because a histogram is a picture takers best friend.

I put together this little tutorial of sorts to explain how I use the histogram in Lightroom 3 to my advantage to make a really lovely silhouetted portrait without any fancy studio equipment.

  • This is the photo SOOC (straight out of the camera) I shot in raw and did my best to overexpose the background as much as possible. As you can see holding the camera straight is not one of my strong suits so the first order of business is to straighten her out.

  • Since the background is going to end up being pure white the only thing that matters is if your subject looks like she’s standing up straight.

  • Now that she’s all straightened out and centered you’re going to adjust your exposure and black sliders until you can click on the little highlight warning/alert arrows in your Lightroom histogram (You will not be able to click on the arrows until there are blown out portions of your photo, meaning absolute pure white and absolute pure black with no detail in them whatsoever. Almost every photo should have pure white and pure black portions, even if it’s just the tiniest smidge like the blacks in this photo. One of my biggest complaints with black and white photos is that they are muddy, meaning there is no pure white or no pure black in the photo, it just ends up looking flat.)

  • Once you have your histogram highlight arrows selected your photo should look like the one below. The red portions are the pure white areas of your photo and the blue are the true black areas. The black in this photo doesn’t matter as much as the white but it has to be there to bring out the best contrast and detail in her lovely face and shape.

  • Next you’re going to “paint” by over exposing the remaining parts of the background that are not pure white. Perhaps this is the cheaters way of accomplishing this, but I don’t want to haul my full studio set up everywhere I go and this gets the job done quite well. In Lightroom (version 2 or later) you’re going to select the paintbrush to exposure and move your slider up as far as it will go, then you just paint over the almost white areas.

  • When you’re done, your photo will look like this, the background pure white as demonstrated by the histogram alerts.

  • Deselect your histogram highlight alerts to get a feel for what your photo looks like now.

  • The last thing I did was warm the photo up ever so slightly. It may have been bright and sunny outside but it was cloudy which meant very washed out skin tones that no white balance could have loved.

  • That’s it! (I mean, I say that’s it because that’s all I had to do and I’ve done this before so maybe it won’t be quite so easy your first try but maybe it will be in which case YAY!) Regardless, you at least have a starting point and this could just as easily be done in Photoshop (well, “easy” is a relative term when it comes to Photoshop with beginners. Lightroom is my lover, the end.) Isn’t she LOVELY?

(big babble) underpants, presents, explanations and a haul.

(baby babble) pink parts, sympathy and chompy things.

i love right now (and lights.)

merry bokeh eve.

merry bokeh eve.

on dasher, on dancer, on bokeh!

merry bokeh eve.

You can make your own bokeh kit, or you can buy one like I did.

happy merry everything.

I cannot, for the life of me, put this baby down when she falls asleep in my arms.


I sleep with her in the same chair I begged for Addie to snuggle with me in.

I waited way too long to hold a sleeping baby to go dropping her off in her crib as soon as she falls asleep just so I can get stuff done.

At night when the little one is in bed I can still get the big one to climb under a blanket with me on the couch. Her feet are always freezing but she lets me huggle her too, it’s more like cozying up with a gangly Great Dane rather than a furry little kitten, but it gets the job done.

These two little people, we get to keep them for as long as they’ll let us.

christmas card.

Merry Happy Everything.

(big babble) museums, birthdays and ghosts are the same things as monsters.

(baby babble) photos, hips and donut heads.

gratuitous baby photos and a giveaway.

jingle bells-seven months

jingle bells-seven months

seven months

seven months


cats. sheesh.

Coming here from Indy Style? Hi! Hope I didn’t have anything coming out of my nose during my segment.

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Curious about what I do here? Over on the right are links to some of my most favorite posts and most popular categories including depression, pregnancy, infertility and photography.

Up there is my baby. I have a one eyed cat and a curly headed seven year old who just had a birthday.

Are you a regular around here? HI. I sure do like you. Thanks for coming back.

How’s your holiday season going? Mine? Superb.