Warm smiles and serene sun flares seem to be landing on the shoulders of portraits all over the internet nowadays. Complimented with beautiful bokeh from a shallow depth of field, the allure of a sun-kissed image image is easy to see. What happens when mother nature doesn't seem to be on your side? In this article, I am going to show you how to master "faking" sun flare. White Balance
The first step is to take control of the white balance in your photo. The Auto white balance setting only seeks to produce neutrally balanced tones. These are fine most of the time, but we want to make the final photo appear warm as if it were taken at golden hour. To do this, set your camera to the Shade white balance preset and now the whole photo is instantly warmed up.
Gelling Your Flash
Next we have to create a fake sun. You can use a speedlight or studio strobe to do this as long as the flash is off-camera and is triggered to flash remotely. With our new white balance setting, a bare flash will actually appear cool and blueish on it own. To warm up the flash we simply need to apply CTO - Color Temperature Orange - gels to it. They are sold in different intensities and for this technique I recommend that you apply 2x Full Cut CTO gels to your flash. The first gel will balance out the flash color temperature with the new white balance setting on your camera as we see below. The second gel will add add even more warmth to the image. (Check out LEE filters for large gel kits and Rogue for small flash gel kits as seen in the video below.)
The final step is the positioning of the light. Lens flare is the result of direct light skimming off of the front elements of your camera lens. So use a light stand or an assistant to position the flash behind your subject aiming back at the camera. Get focus on your subject then shift your composition slighting to hide the flash just outside of the edge of the frame. Voilà!! It now looks like you have a beautiful warm sunset in the background. Make sure to experiment with the placement of the flash to produce more or less sun flare in the final image.
Real World Scenarios
As full-time assignment photographer this technique has saved my hide multiple times. On a shoot for Fitness Magazine I was hired to create an environmental portrait of a subject for the July issue. The photo editor specifically requested my signature style of warmth and sun flare to fit the summertime issue. The only catch was that the shoot took place on windy Lake Michigan in JANUARY... hardly the ideal sunny setting for a summertime photoshoot. In the end we fought of subfreezing temperatures and walked away with the winning photo. My client was thrilled and the readers were none the wiser ;)
Want to Learn More?
Erik will be sharing all of his techniques, insight, and experience with you, in the Bahamas on May 13-17th for the Fstoppers 2015 Workshops! You'll be shooting with Erik, a full team, professional models, and all the latest natural light and strobe gear for 2 days solid at the Atlantis Resort & Casino. You'll walk away with the knowledge to create killer images in any lighting condition and whole new portfolio.