Do You See What I See? Bringing Out the Beauty of Silhouette Sunset Sessions

Silhouette Sunset Sessions are one of my favorite Fine Art Pawtrait Session options ever! Offered just once or twice a year, Silhouette Sunset Sessions are wildly popular with Pittsburgh pet parents and sell out quickly every single time I offer them. They’re intimate, vibrant, and dreamy–a way of capturing your dog’s portraits like never before–against the fiercest, most magical skies.

If you were among the handful of clients who I photographed at my most recent one held a few weeks ago on what seemed like the grayest, most lackluster day we’ve seen all August, you may be surprised to see how I was able to bring out the beauty of the sky when the clouds truly didn’t start to break until just minutes before the first session was set to begin. Let me tell you though: it was worth the wait!

In week 35 of the Photography Blog Circle, I’m asking the question, “Do you see what I see?” For most people, that answer is probably not. That’s why I thought it’d be fun to share a full edit from Eli’s Silhouette Sunset Session in Lightroom, taking an image from straight out of camera (SOOC) to the final masterpiece. It’s not hard to take the colors of the sky too far, so you need to be mindful when enhancing what is already there. The focus should be on enhancing, not completely recreating, what is visible naturally.

Once all base edits are completed in Lightroom, my next step is to take the image into Photoshop for any final retouches. With this particular image, I needed to remove the cell phone from Eli’s mom Gretchen’s back pocket as well as Eli’s leash, which presented a unique challenge given the position of her arm and hand. Keep in mind when shooting silhouettes, you’re going to lose all detail as subjects become completely blackened, leaving only their outlines or silhouettes. For that reason, it’s important to maintain areas of negative space and watch for positions that obstruct these distinct outlines (since doing so will essentially blob together multiple subjects, potentially leaving them unrecognizable). In noticing that Gretchen’s right hand was tucked in her pocket, I played around with transforming the left arm to have the appearance of being on the other hip or in the left pocket, which worked beautifully for this image. I just adore the way Eli is looking up at his mama!

Eli ended up with a beautiful collection of images that Gretchen chose for a barnwood framed print, a small gift print, and a gorgeous 8×8 fine art album customized to exactly what she wanted. Here are a few highlights from his session. (And my goodness, if that action shot doesn’t scream pure joy, nothing does!)

If you are local to the Pittsburgh area or familiar with the Beaver County Humane Society (BCHS), you may remember Eli’s story. Brought to the BCHS in early 2017 with a gunshot wound to the jaw, Eli was soon placed as a foster with Gretchen while he recovered. During his time there, Gretchen fell in love with this sweet boy and knew she couldn’t give him back, telling me, “He’s my best buddy.”

“He has the most adorable face and it’s super cute if we can get him to smile,” she says. “I love how he gets excited to explore with me when we hike together. I love his tail; it wags/sways when he’s happy and walking. It’s so cute! He’s also very nebby, always investigating.”

I couldn’t stop laughing at this next series of images all captured when Gretchen asked Eli one simple question: “Want to go for a ride?!” Based on Eli’s extreme high-flying response, I’d say that’s a definite yes!

And because the heart of the Bark & Gold Photography experience is all about celebrating the joy and love between Pittsburgh pets and their people, I knew we couldn’t let the sun set completely without catching a few tender moments between Eli and Gretchen. I love how, even without seeing any detail in their expressions, you can totally feel their connection and love.

Silhouette Sunset Sessions will return again in 2021 as a Fine Art Pawtrait Session offering with limited spots available. Be sure to share your email on my homepage to join the VIP list and be among the first to hear when these sessions reopen. For even earlier access, join me in the free Bark & Gold Photography VIP Members group on Facebook.


This post is a part of a photography blog circle featuring photographers specializing in a variety of niches. To see what the next photographer is sharing for our weekly theme, “Do You See What I See?,” check out Gretchen Ciccone with GCiccone Photography, capturing special moments. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here.

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4 thoughts on “Do You See What I See? Bringing Out the Beauty of Silhouette Sunset Sessions

    • Bark & Gold Photography says:

      Thank you, I couldn’t have loved her session more!

      Yes, I think it’s nice to show how even blah skies can be transformed with slight tweaks. So often people think we need this big, vibrant sky of color to have a great end result, but this shows otherwise.

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