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How to Shoot a Fake Golden Hour Portrait Indoors

Get simulated sunset light in the studio
Photo of fake golden hour portrait

We’ve taught you how to fake sunset light for outdoor portraits previously, now here’s a new method to create simulated golden hour light for indoor portraits. The below tutorial is brought to you by portrait photographer Manny Ortiz who shows you how to create the indoor golden hour effect in just two minutes.

In the short video below, Ortiz photographs his model wife Diana in a simple set-up at his home. He explains that it all begins with his main light, which he uses with a 36-inch beauty dish he calls “the perfect modifier.” (Though, it should be noted, there are a variety of beauty dishes you can use. Check out our comprehensive guide to beauty dishes here.)

Ortiz uses his beauty dish with a white interior and a diffusion panel. “It is positioned as low as possible so I can get a nice catchlight in Diana’s eye,” he notes. He also employs a 1×4 strip box to provide some fill light, but you can also use a simple reflector.

On camera left, he uses an optical spotlight projector with a window gobo and a yellow gel filter inserted. He aims the projector at the background behind his model.

“The key to bring this shot to life and really selling that golden hour look is by placing a light behind the model with a yellow gel sheet,” Ortiz explains. “It looks like that golden light is reflecting or even just grazing her shoulder. It also helps with separating her from the background.”

To make sure you’re getting the right illumination when using multiple light set ups, Ortiz shares an in-camera hack you can try. “I turn all the lights off using my trigger. Then I turn them on, one at a time, allowing me to dial in the individual power of the lights more accurately. And it prevents any kind of confusion.”

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