Make Your Own Golden Hour Light | Quad City Wedding Photographer

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Create beautiful dreamy golden light no matter what time of day it is!

Today I had a little free time and decided to write a tutorial on how you can create the light you want no matter what time of day it is, with a minimum of gear!

For me this means beautiful creamy golden light that looks as natural as I can possibly make it!

Today was the perfect day to go out and take these shots and write this post. It is just kind of a very blah day, quite overcast with no direction of light. Now on the one hand this is ok I guess as your not battling harsh bright sunlight right? Your camera is smart enough to give you decent results without much hassle…..

Copyright Michelle Quinn Studios
ISO 100 f/4.5 1/200th

This is my lovely “bride”…we will call her Cinderella! I took a pull back shot and this is SOOC with no adjustments. It is how the camera metered the scene. As you can see in caption I shot it at ISO 100 with an aperture of 4.5 at a shutter speed of 1/200th.

The next thing I knew I wanted to do was darken down the background just a bit, so I set my camera to underexpose by changing my aperture to 5.6 and this is what I ended up with next.

ISO 100 at f/5.6 and 1/200th
ISO 100 at f/5.6 and 1/200th

Okay! So I am pretty happy with the exposure behind my bride right now knowing what I intend to do! So keeping in mind that my real bride would have a head with skin and eyes…lol….I decided that I wanted to put one speedlight on my camera to add just the tiniest little bit of light to pop into her face. The speedlight is in Manual and set at the lowest setting possible, but you could also set your speedlight in ETTl and then set your flash exposure compensation in your camera to about -1 1/3 to start and adjust from there. I used a setting in Manual of 1/64th power pointed straight forward. No bounce and no modifier was involved.

on camera speedlight at 1/64th power
on camera speedlight at 1/64th power

It’s a very subtle difference that is hard to see, but having done this before I can assure you it will be noticeable on your subjects face!

And Now We Make Our Very Own Golden Hour

So it’s now about 2:30 in the afternoon, and there’s definitely nothing out here looking like the kind of light I love anywhere. So let’s make it! This is so easy guys, and I’m telling you is a game changer in your work!

We’re going to put a second speedlight on a light stand and add an orange gel to it. I bought mine on Amazon for less than $9 bucks. Set the flash on Manual and start at about 1/4 power. I will say this however, I usually end up at full power and just position the flash to get the “sun” how I want it in my frame. Here is a pullback of how I set it up.

Pull back showing where I have the flash located.
Pull back showing where I have the flash located.

You can see I have the flash located just a few feet behind Cinderella, and just slightly off to the side. I personally am looking for the light to be just peeking into the frame somewhere. Creating Golden Hour Light

This is a capture to show you my settings once open in Lightroom. Because the flash has a gel on it, the light looks just beautiful, and I didn’t have to do much adjusting. I made some highlight adjustments on the dress, gave it some vibrance and just a touch of contrast.

And Here Is The Difference Side By Side

What a difference to that image! And just imagine the possibilities! I have to show it to you all alone!

Beautiful Light
Beautiful Light

I decided to put the light more behind Cinderella to see what it looked like, then I put her at the entrance to my screened porch to create an even moodier image! Keep in mind, it’s 2:30 in the afternoon and you can create a look that matched whatever it is your envisioning for your bride.

And Last But Not Least….

I took my bride back into the studio and placed her in front of the vanity. I decided to make one small change, and I took the orange gel off the flash. Then I shot the scene with available light. My camera settings were still ISO 100, but I had to drop my shutter to 1/125th and open up my lens to f/3.5. So it’s a nice photo, and I’m sure if Cinderella were actually breathing she might like the shot just fine.

Natural Light Image. It's Okay....
Natural Light Image. It’s Okay….


But it’s not the shot I wanted to make!

I switched to my 135mm lens, and changed the camera settings to ISO 100, 1/200th and f/4 and then switched my off camera flash back on. (I am not using the on camera flash at all) I lowered the flash power way down to 1/64th as I didn’t need anywhere near the light that I did outside, and created the shot I wanted. I think Cinderella is going to LOVE it!

Off Camera Flash with a Black and White Conversion
Off Camera Flash with a Black and White Conversion

Well, that’s all I have for today! Seriously though, go out and give this a try, it’s so worth the time and effort to try things like this. And don’t worry about all the people driving by and your neighbors wondering why your carrying a mannequin dressed in tulle around your yard! Most people think photographer’s are a little weird anyway! 🙂


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