How to Fake a Sunset Photography Tutorial

The best time to capture beautifully lit photos outside is during  the golden hour, which is basically the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset. The sun at these times induces a warm feeling in an image. But, the problem is these two moments don’t last long. So if you aren’t lucky enough to capture a photo at the right time, what you can do? You can fake it by using the tips in this video tutorial:

It’s actually pretty easy to fake a sunset in-camera. You can achieve this by recreating what the sun does to your camera and the effect it creates on your subject. There are three ways you can fake a sunset.

1. Using Strobe and a Reflector

As Mango Street demonstrates, place a strobe light and a reflector in front of your subject in such a way that the reflector redirects the light from the strobe. Turn the reflector to the golden side to get the perfect glow of a sunset. By redirecting the light from the strobe, you will have complete control of the foreground exposure. You can lower it or raise it as you prefer.

create sun with strobe and reflector

If you brighten the dark foreground, there is the risk of blowing out the background. This means you have two competing lights which will make your photos look fake. If you want to get a softer bounce, turn the reflector to the white side.

sunset photography with strobes

2. Using Sun Reflections from Buildings

Another great way to fake a sunset in-camera is to place your subject in front of sun reflections from building windows. You can then use a strobe of your choice and a modifier as a fill. This is a great technique to give you beautiful, direct hair light and add depth and dimension, which makes it look like you used several sources of light.

sunset window reflection photo

3. Using a Strobe to Fake a Sunset

Here, you place the strobe 10 to 20 feet behind your model and face it toward them. You can then use a reflector again to replicate a sunset. Place the reflector somewhere out of frame in front of your model to give your photo an overall orange glow. This technique will reduce contrast and clarity, but that can be corrected in post.

fake golden hour in-camera photo

If you miss the opportunity to take a photo during golden hour, don’t worry. You can always use the above tips to capture beautiful, warm glowing sunset portraits.

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