Useful Photography Tip #196: The Golden Hour Look Any Time of the Day

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Everyone loves the look of the golden hour when shooting portraits. While it’s always available for only a short period of time, don’t worry: there’s a way to get it at any time of the day. Best of all, this is NOT POSSIBLE IN PHOTOSHOP WITHOUT A LOT OF WORK! The reason for this is because you’ll create an organically looking light in the scene and not just use a gradient. Here’s how!

We used:

You start off looking at your scene and imagining where the sun would be coming from. Then, the light is placed in that spot. For the best effect, ensure that the light isn’t visible in the scene. If you’re using TTL, then raise the power up a few stops. You’ll get the most consistent output when shooting in manual mode and the trick is to position the light so it looks totally natural. To do this, look at your camera’s light meter and either underexpose the image or balance it right to the middle indicator. The light is off in the camera left position and it looks like the sun is just starting to go down. This is because the orange gels are coloring the light output. The truth is this scene was shot around the middle of the afternoon! That’s otherwise not possible.

This is all working due to a combination of a few things:

  • Fast flash duration from a strobe. Flash duration tends to cut down ambient lighting.
  • A faster shutter speed tends to cut down ambient lighting too.
  • The orange gel on the flash makes it look like the sun. This is far better than what a gradient can do in Photoshop, Lightroom, or Capture One. You can see the sun organically hitting the subjects in areas that aren’t possible in post-production without a lot of work.
  • We shot in the shade, so that gives us the most advantage when it comes to controlling the light.