Golden hour is the type of lighting most photographers swear by. And indeed, it’s hard to go wrong when you shoot around this hour of the day. But you know how it is: sometimes the weather or the timing just don’t work for you. Still, there are ways to “cheat” and create your own golden hour.
In this video from Adorama, Pye Jirsa guides you through five simple steps you can take to mimic the golden hour lighting in outdoor portraits. It’s pretty easy and doesn’t even require a complicated setup. All you need is one flash, a color gel, and some photo editing skills.
Step 1: visualize the scene – start by simply paying attention to where the natural light is coming from. Place your subjects into the scene and imagine where your flash will be placed: it needs to come from the same direction as the sun would.
Step 2: setting up the flash – once you know where the flash will be, it’s time to set it up. You can use a light stand, but a friend willing to play one will also do if you’re on a budget. :) As for the flash, Pye uses two Godox AD200 flashes in a MagMod MagRing 2 paired with two CTO gels. Of course, you can also use just one flash, but you’ll need the CTO gel to shift the flash’s color temperature and make the light warmer.
Step 3: flash placement – If you want to capture a wider scene, make sure to place the flash far enough so that it covers it in its entirety. Pay attention to that, the more you move the flash back, the more power you need. Another option is to crop in the photos after shooting, or include less of the scene in the first place. When placing the flash, remember to follow the existing light pattern you visualized in the first step.
Step 4: flash and camera settings – of course, this will depend on many factors such as the weather, the time of day, and the gear you use. nevertheless, Pye suggests that you start with the flash at full power and work from there. As for the camera settings, make sure that you have natural-looking and fairly bright ambient light exposure.
Step 5: post-production – now that you’ve shot your photos, it’s editing time. Pye likes adding a bit of a vignette, making these “golden hour” images a bit warmer, and adding sun flare. He guides you through the editing process in the video, so you can follow along. You’ll find some exercise files here.
I must admit that I’m pleasantly surprised with how convincing the lighting looks with a pretty simple setup. I don’t normally use flash in my photos (unless I really have to), but this has inspired me to try and incorporate it more. Have you tried this technique before? If you have, feel free to share your experience, tips, and tricks.