Photographer's Secret:

Lighting Tips for Capturing the Magic of Golden Hour

To start this off, let me say that I am not a "gearhead" when it comes to my equipment.  Gear is of course very important to me in the sense that it's one of the most important tools I use in my work, but I try and approach gear decisions by asking myself, "will this help me create the type of images I want to create?"

Golden hour - An hour after sunrise & an hour before sunset

When shooting outdoors one of the biggest factors that determines the overall mood and feel of a photo is the weather.  A photo taken on a cloudy day is definitely going to have a different feel than an image taken during the perfect sunset.  Thankfully living in Southern California, sunny days are the norm and we get plenty of beautiful sunsets like this picture perfect afternoon with Ashley and Brandon during their engagement shoot in Yucaipa. 


How to create golden hour - Anytime of the day

Unfortunately, the weather doesn't always cooperate.  Cloudy days are always a possibility.  On top of the possibility of clouds, maybe in the middle of an urban shoot the sun dips behind a building shading the entire area.  Where did my beautiful golden highlights go?!?!  I decided I wanted to be able to give that warm look of sunset regardless of whether or not the weather was cooperating.  I purchased a remote trigger (Yongnuo YN-E3-RT) for my flash which allows me to put my flash on a light stand and have the flash fire automatically each time I take a picture. So now I can position my flash anywhere I want, and putting an orange colored gel (full CTO) in front of the flash gives it a nice warm color.  What does that give us?  Portable sunset!  Woo-hoo!

Jana and I recently re-did our portraits for the website, and I tested this method for our shoot.  Take a look at the picture of Jana and notice the warm light spilling over her hair and the plants behind her.  Must be sunset, right?  Nope, my portable sunset setup strikes again!  By contrast take a look at the picture of me in the exact same environment but without the lighting setup.  It's still a great photo, but that pop of light in Jana's shot really adds a warmth missing from my shot.  

The magic of sunset - For softer & warmer lighting

I recently had the pleasure of working with Danny and Katie on an engagement shoot in downtown Riverside by the Mission Inn.  As you can see from this shot, it was a bright day and the sun was at least an hour from going down.  


Photographer's secret - Bring a portable sunset

We found an alleyway full of old, super cool architectural details and knew we had to explore a bit.  Unfortunately because the alley was in between two very tall buildings, the whole thing was totally shaded.  Dang!  Ah but not to worry, portable sunset to the rescue!  I was able to add that beautiful golden light into the scene creating the perfect atmosphere even though we were totally shaded. 


So, what's the takeaway of this post?  That while getting naturally perfect weather is nice, it's definitely not a requirement to come away with a beautiful set of images, all you need is a photographer that is prepared to take on mother nature!

All photographs by: Alex Bruce Photography