How to Imitate the Golden Hour on a Cloudy Day

Most of us know that the golden hour gives us some of the best light for portraiture, yet what to do when it’s a dreary, cloudy day? In the video below, photographer Vanessa Joy shows us how to get around the gloom and add the beautiful golden hour light to our images, regardless of the weather:

Obviously not all outdoor portraits can be scheduled for the hour just before sunset, and even when they can be, that doesn’t mean the weather will cooperate. So, if you have a client that really needs that warm, golden hour glow, it’s helpful to know how to imitate it with your lighting gear. Luckily, it’s pretty easy.

Lighting Setup for Golden Hour Light

Place an off-camera flash together with a half Color Temperature Orange (CTO) gel in the spot you’d like the sun to be. Of course, the sun isn’t really orange, but the B1 combined with the CTO will do a passable job at mimicking the color of the sun as it dips toward the horizon.

Next, set up a softbox where you’d normally place it with regards to the sun and the model, and take a few test photos. (Remember to set the white balance on your camera to that of your softbox.) You can always adjust the intensity of the “sun,” as well as add in a reflector for fill. Just play around until you get the look you’re going for.

Using an off-camera flash to mimic the sun

While the image above may not exactly have a “golden hour” look, it still provides a lot of the warmth and glow the sun would normally provide at the hour. And if you’d like your images to look a little less washed out, simply play around with the position of your reflector and the intensity of the flash.

Keep in mind, while Profoto gear is quite excellent, you don’t need anything half as expensive to make this work. Just about any softbox, off-camera flash, and TTL system will do the job.

All in all, using this simple set up gives you a lot of golden hour-ish options that you just wouldn’t otherwise have on a cloudy day. What do you think–worth a shot?

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