As all wedding and portrait photographers have experienced, things often don't go as planned. Two common scenarios are, 1) timeline delays that cut into your ideal outdoor shooting times and 2) rainy or cloudy weather that covers the sun, making the popular backlit look impossible to achieve with natural light. When either of these two things happens, we at Lin and Jirsa Photography use the following five ways to recreate or fake the sun. We hope these tips will come in handy and allow you to wow your clients despite less than ideal circumstances.
All of these concepts are from the Recreating Golden Hour Workshop on SLR Lounge, an in-depth tutorial that includes exercise files, presets, and HD videos.
1. Full Strobe At a Distance
You can "recreate golden hour" with a full strobe, like a Profoto B1, gelled twice with CTO gels, and placed hundreds of feet from your subjects. The power of a Profoto B1 combined with the far distance from the subjects allows the light to spread onto the entire scene to create a convincing golden hour look. A similar effect can be created with just a standard flash that's been gelled orange. However, keep in mind that a studio strobe is 10-plus times more powerful, allowing the photographer to blanket an entire scene just as the sun would. When using standard hot-shoe flashes, the distance between the flash and subjects must be far closer while still ensuring that the flash backlights all background elements framed within the image.
This technique was already covered in a video and previous Fstoppers article that you can check out here.
2. String Lights in Front of Your Lens
Another way to fake the sun is to introduce a tungsten light to the foreground of the image with inexpensive string lights. Keep in mind that this only works at very low apertures (like f/2.8 and down) and at longer focal lengths (like 85mm and up). The bokeh and compression effects make that light look like natural golden hour flare flooding over the subject.
3. Three Speedlights at a Distance Directly Behind the Subject
This technique is identical to the techniques in the first tip except we use multiple speedlights instead of a single powerful strobe. With three tungsten-gelled Canon Speedlite 600EX-RTs, you can get a similar look as the Profoto B1s. The main difference is the power output, consistency from shot to shot as well as your recycle time limitations.
4. Single Speedlight Indoors
Faking sunlight indoors allows you to add highlights and shadows to an otherwise muted scene, as you can see from the image above. As with most of these techniques, seeing the vision is more challenging than the actual technique. Place your speedlight directly in front of the window from which you want to mimic the sun. Try finding windows with a light direction that will cast interesting shadows on the scene while ensuring that those same shadows don't cause distracting elements on your subjects. The power of your flash will depend on your aperture, your ISO, and the size of the room.
5. Single Speedlight or Strobe From the Side
The last technique I want to show you is placing your flash in the top corners of your frame. This technique is particularly useful if your ideal composition has your subjects close to the background. Since your flash is close to the camera, you don't need the same amount of power as you would if you were trying to cover an entire scene with your flash at a distance.
We hope you've enjoyed this tutorial. In the full workshop, we talk through each of these techniques in depth and show you many more examples. We also also cover ways to create and enhance flares in Lightroom as well. Of course, we'd love to see examples of how you recreate the sun in the comments below.