Like most parents, I’m sure, we have certain things on our TV that are blocked from the kids. The girls are unable to access shows that are PG or a certain length unless they have the ‘secret code’.

The other day, Allison comes to us and says, ‘Just letting you know…I figured out the code and I’m watching Peguins of Madagascar’

Us: Um….um….how did you crack the code?

Her: I just did it.

Needless to say, we now have a different code on the TV.

This morning? She recognized Dick Van Dyke on a commercial. When Tony asked how she knew that was him she says, ‘I remember seeing his name on the credits when we first watched Night at the Museum.’

Tony responds with, ‘So Allison. Want to go to Vegas with me?’

This kid is no joke. She distinctly remembers climbing out of her crib at 16 months and can sort out all kinds of brain teasers and number games. She sat down at her Grandma’s piano last weekend and started playing Beethoven. Never having tried to play it before.

I honestly don’t know what I’m living with here. I’m afraid I’m going to need to up my game.


  • Sarah - I have one like that too!! It’s scary!!ReplyCancel

  • Ali Borene - What a cute little freckle face. Love her smile.ReplyCancel

  • katie - Umm, honey. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

    Of course, that whole knowing a celebrity thing is my superpower and look where that got me. ;)ReplyCancel

Hi everyone! In this little tutorial I hope to help you successfully shoot silhouettes and process them quickly and easily.

Just to remind you, and to let you know if you don’t already, I use Photoshop Elements and shoot in full manual mode. Full manual mode is HIGHLY suggested so that you are sure to get the greatest results out of your camera.

For the following image, I was shooting with a Nikon d3 and 35mm 1.4 lens.


Now. The nitty gritty.

When you’re shooting silhouettes, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

1. Get down low. After you get down low? Get lower. The lower you get, the better you’re able to isolate the subject within the frame. Chances are, there are trees, grasses, shrubs, etc. Getting as low as you can will eliminate these distractions from the frame.

2. Meter for the sky. Metering for the subject will blow out the sky. Here, you want to do the opposite. You want to UNDEREXPOSE the subject by a LOT. Metering for the sky will do that for you. Point your lens to the sky (away from the sun), watch the meter and start with zeroing it out. You’ll more than likely have to go between +1 and +2, but 0 is a great start to see where things are headed.

3. Shoot with the light behind the subject. Remember! You are not limited to using the sun. You can also choose to use car headlights, a flashlight, ipad light and even the light from a streetlamp. Get creative! Don’t stay within the box. Get out of the box and shoot creatively. (how do you like this diagram with the stick photog using a telescope?)


4. Shoot up. Include less of the ground and more of the subject and sky. Try placing your subject on the bottom line of the Rule of Thirds to give more impact to the story.

Now for the pullbacks and setting information:

1/8000 sec; f/2.0; ISO 200 (super high shutter speed to make sure I froze their movement as they were jumping)

diagram of shooting

Here’s how the area looked without the girls and metering for the subject. Tip: You can meter for your hand before calling the subjects over.


Here’s the area after I metered for the sky using the settings posted above.


Whoa. NOW do you see how pretty that sky was?!

Now that I’m ready, I call the girls over, get down low….way low….and shoot up. Here is the SOOC shot.

exposed for girls

Did you see that? If you meter correctly here, get down low enough and have a high enough shutter speed to freeze that movement? You will have very minimal editing to do later. Dude. Now THAT is what I love about manual mode.

Now let’s talk about editing and what I chose to do to this image.

1. I opened the file in ACR (comes with PSE and full photoshop) and pulled the blacks a bit.

2. Open in PSE and do a levels layer adjustment. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Levels. Or simply click the blue/white circle in the layers panel and choose ‘levels’.

3. Next, you can choose the colors in the RGB panel to adjust the image. For example, you can add more blue by choosing blue from the dropdown and moving that slider. Make sense?

4. Pulling the Output Levels Slider to the right (in this same levels window) will add a haze to the image.

5. You can also completely change the colors in the image using a Gradient Map. Go to Layer > New Adjustment Layer > Gradient Map (or choose ‘gradient map’ from the blue/white circle in the layers panel). Once the Gradient Map window pops open, click on the colored bar (it may be a gray to black bar depending on your settings at the moment). Choose a colored ‘box’ in the gradient map window. I chose violet and orange. Click OK. Adjust the opacity of the gradient in the layers panel.


Now, you’ll want to save this .psd file, flatten and then save as a Jpeg.

There are so many ways to edit a silhouette and these are two quick and simple edits. I encourage you to have fun, play around with different ideas and colors and see what YOU like best in your images. Also, don’t forget to think outside of the box. Use various light sources and subjects, processing and finishes. And, as always, post any questions in the comments here and I’ll get back to you.

I hope this helps! Here are a few more silhouettes to give you more ideas.

Using window light


Using a flashlight


Using bright window light shining on the wall


If you’re interested in a course on manual mode or Photoshop Elements, you can read all about what I offer through Clickin Moms Photography Forum here:

Photoshop Elements: Photoshop Elements with Melissa Gibson

Mastering Manual Mode: Mastering Manual Exposure: Shooting 102

The little girls got off the bus this afternoon and Allison immediately starting crying and complaining about some boys ‘being ugly and rude’ to them.

(I say ‘the little girls’ and I probably always will. Even though they are well on their way to NOT being ‘the little girls’ much longer.)

Allison spent the next 10 minutes telling me what went down. I listened carefully and sympathized as we drove to Tony’s office.

Allison: …first they said ‘blah blah blah’

Me: oh no, Allison. That’s not good.

Caroline: silent

Allison: I know, Mommy. They were RUDE.

Caroline: silent

Allison: and then *so and so* said ‘insert lame comments from rude 9 year old boys’

Me: *gasp*!!

Caroline: still silent as can be. It’s like she wasn’t even sitting next to her big sister when this was all going down.

Allison: and they started giggling and….


Me: *clutches chest and gasps* oh my! What did they say THEN?

Caroline: They had nothing to say then.

I’m thinking those Poo Poo Heads won’t cross the big bad 6 year old anymore.

Ha! I thought that was hysterical. And although it’s not the most mature way to handle the situation, sometimes you have to fight fire with fire. And you ALWAYS stick up for your sister.


  • Lynette Davis - Woohoo Miss Caroline! A sister IS your first forever friend. :) Love this! Thanks for sharing Melissa!ReplyCancel


This one is so full of spirit. I hope she always has this wild spark. She’s a smarty, too. I’m going with borderline genius, but hey. I’m her mom and I’m allowed to do that. I’m actually REQUIRED to say my child is a genius, right? I’m not sure if the kid has ever studied for a test in her life. She simply doesn’t have to. She brings home amazing grades without even thinking about it. Plus? The kid is sporty. Sassy and sporty. She can get after it on the soccer field like you wouldn’t believe. She’s a huge rule follower and expects us to follow through on everything. That’s great, of course and keeps us on our toes.

A little interview with her:

Favorite TV show: Brain Games
Favorite music: Pop, Country and Christian
Hates: Jazz
Favorite food: any seafood
Favorite book: Wayside School books
Favorite thing to do after school: soccer
Color: blue
Movie: The Goonies
Favorite thing to do with Caroline: ride bikes
Favorite thing to do with Emily: play Xbox
Hobby: soccer
What do you want to be when you grow up? Professional soccer player
Something that is annoying: smacking
Favorite car: vintange mustang
Favorite thing about yourself: my eyes change from blue to green
Favorite thing to do with Daddy: go to his work
Favorite thing to do with Mommy: read
Favorite subject: science, PE and art
What do you think you’re good at doing? soccer and riding bikes


  • Holly - Love, love LOVE THIS, I am totally stealing this idea to do with my daughter!ReplyCancel

Many people ask about my editing software and what I would suggest to someone just starting out with editing images. I always say the same thing.

I use Photoshop Elements and it is a highly underestimated program.

Honestly? It is a fantastic program for any photographer.

The only reason I would NOT suggest you use PSE is if you’re wanting to create your own actions. Everything else is available to you in Elements. I’m telling you, it’s a crazy-good editing software program.

As an example, here are ten before and after images of edits I’ve made in Photoshop Elements.

If you like what you see here and would love to brush up on PSE or learn this program as a beginner, I am teaching a jam-packed workshop over on Clickin Moms Photography Forum. I’ll teach you how to do all of these edits and then some.


Registration is open right this very second for this three week course and I pinky promise that you will NOT be disappointed. You can read the reviews and sign up here: Photoshop Elements with Melissa Gibson

I’d LOVE to see you there!


  • Liz - I love these edits Melissa!! I had no idea Element was so versatile!ReplyCancel

I’m wondering if we are anything like other families when we eat out?

The girls like for everyone to sit in the same spot (in relation to each other) every single time. If not? There are tears from one child and I won’t tell you who THAT is. I sit between the biggest and the littlest. The middle girl sits across from us and beside Daddy.

If it’s a cirle table?

Oh geez.

The girls always order the same drinks. Sprite, Shirley Temple and Root Beer.


There’s drawing, word puzzles or chatting allowed at the table and a big ol’ HECK NO on the devices.

There is an exception to the No Devices Rule. If the girls need to look up how to draw something, they are allowed to Google it. (are we mean or what?! I mean golly. God forbid we actually talk and stuff)

At least one parent and more than likely the server will get a hand-drawn picture before we leave. ALWAYS. Does this happen with anyone else?

Eating is sandwiched between the drawing and writing.

See what I just did there?

And of course, we have those manner things that we enforce: look the server in the eye when listening to the specials, napkins in laps, no getting up/walking around, say please/thank you/pass the ___ please.

Now. All of this goes very well so long as people are sitting in their ‘correct’ spot. If our seating arrangement gets wonky from the beginning? Then one girl is still pouting while the other is still crying. Let’s don’t talk about what happens when we get confused on who sits where….we just stand around the table and stare at each other for 30 seconds.

On this day? Everyone was a teeny bit thrown off because we had guests with us and the seats were ****GASP**** not the usual way. Thankfully, the little one got over it quickly and guess who ended up with the drawing this time? That’d be me!:)


In this tutorial I hope to help you discover the light you need in order to achieve a black background in-camera. Many, many times I use this type of light and I’m excited to share this little tip with you!

What you’re looking for is called light fall off. The somewhat technical way of explaining it is this: You’re looking for light that has a 2-3 stop difference in the light that your subject is in. Meaning, let’s say my subject is metering *here* in the light that I’m shooting in; however, if I pull the subject back into the darker area? I’m going to have to make some adjustments in my settings in order to meter properly for that light. Usually, that means about a 3 stop difference in the light.

As an example, I recently used our three year old English Lab, Max, in this type of light.


Above is the SOOC (straight out of camera…no edits made) file of Max sitting in a little patch of light.

The settings for this image were:
ISO 400, f 2.2 shutter speed 1250
I used a 50mm 1.4 lens
I spot metered for the brightest area of his fur on his chest
Kelvin white balance of 4750

When I meter for that brighest part of him, I’m throwing the rest of the area behind him into shadow. See that? Sometimes, I have to increase those blacks in the background in order to make it ‘smooth’ so to speak. In this shot, I see a bit of the white trim of the kitchen wall coming in behind him. I’ll edit that in a bit, but I’m pretty happy with this SOOC image of him.

I know pullbacks are always helpful, so here’s a few for you. Beware, you’re about to see my dirty floor. If I can add a disclaimer? The dog sheds his light hair on our dark floor, BUT he’s worth it.

Walking in from outside, I noticed the light on the floor. (That’s another thing…always look down!)


I grabbed some treats, called Max over and I laid down on my tummy inside the laundry room so that I could shoot him straight on. Behind him is the light fall off.


This is what it looked like from where I was lying down. Oooooohhh…look at that janky floor!


Notice the light he’s in compared to the light that’s just behind him? That is pretty extreme, don’t you think? Metering for the subject that’s in that light will throw the background into darkness. It’s great for hiding messy backgrounds and giving your image a clean finish.

Here’s the before, SOOC shot again.


And here’s my final edit. All I did here was pull the blacks just a smidge on the background ONLY. Sometimes I don’t even have to do that. I finished with an action from Marissa Gifford Photography.


Any questions? Please don’t be too shy to ask. Just post in the comments and I’ll help out. I pinky promise that there are NO dumb questions.

Also, if you’re interested in Marissa’s actions, you can find them here: Marissa Gifford Photography

  • Jenn - Thanks for sharing this! Can’t wait to play and give it a try.ReplyCancel

  • katie - Woo hoo! Love it! Share more!ReplyCancel

  • Amelia - Thank you for sharing this! How did you darken just the background, did you select only Max then inverse the selection? How did you keep the light fall-off looking natural while making the adjustments? I find that I always have obvious edges when I select someone/something and darken just the background!ReplyCancel

    • Melissa - Hi Amelia! I work in PSE and I darkened the background by doing a levels adjustment layer then brushing off of Max with a soft black brush. The majority of the time, I’m using a soft brush to remove the change from the subject. I hope this answers the question. :)ReplyCancel

  • Danelle - Wow, I love this image, and have been wondering about this lately. I have many of your actions and love them! Do you mind sharing which one you used?ReplyCancel

    • Melissa - Hi! I loooove Marissa’s actions! The one I used here is called Lifestyle Color. :)ReplyCancel

  • Tammi - Thank you! SO looking forward to trying this out.ReplyCancel

  • Robyn Leingang - Total rookie question…what’s PSE? Photoshop something??ReplyCancel

    • Melissa - Hi!! Yep, you got it! PSE is Photoshop Elements.ReplyCancel

  • Nicole S. - This is so helpful! Thanks especially for the pullbacks. I need to break out the treats and shoot my dog more often! :-)ReplyCancel

  • Andrea Miles - Hello there, thanks for sharing this tips and how you achieved the look. Can’t wait to try this myself. Can I ask how you determined the Kelvin White balance? :)ReplyCancel

    • Melissa - Hi Andrea! For the kelvin temperature, I start with 5000 when I’m indoors with natural window light; however since this light was a bit warm to begin with (late afternoon sun), I chose to go a bit lower in order to keep that warmth at bay. :) Hope that helps out!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer Campbell - Thanks a million for this tutorial! I love this look and have been driving myself nuts trying to figure it out!ReplyCancel

  • Diana - I love the way you explained it!ReplyCancel

I found this little list that Caroline wrote out. Lulu is our 8 year old black and white Shih Tzu. She is THE sweetest dog ever and such a cuddle bug. Lulu is pretty much blind now and needs help at times.

‘To Be Lulu’s Mommy’

1. get food for hre
2. mack sre she is bye you
3. pet hre
4. a dog toy
5. folow hre
6. say ware to go
7. do not live hre
8. lete hre go otdo sied
9. rede hre a book
10. snugol
11. let hre go to the tolit

Is that not the cutest ever?