Welcome to the IGTV series we’re doing every two weeks on Profoto’s Instagram called “Slice of Pye.” We’ll cover a myriad of topics, discuss lighting principles, and showcase a ton of Profoto gear in action over the course of the next year, so please join us over on IG.

Tune in to our next episode: July 8th at 2 PM PST!


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Profoto USA ?? (@profotousa) on

Try as we might to schedule our sessions around golden hour for the perfect light, the weather and other conditions may not always cooperate. It could be that the sky is cloudy or the sun has gone down before the session ended. Either way, as photographers, we have to deliver amazing images regardless of the conditions. It helps to have a few lighting tricks up your sleeve.

In this episode of “Slice of Pye,” we’ll show you how to use flash to create golden hour sun flare in your portraits. We’re going to use the CAMP framework (Composition, Ambient Exposure, Modify or Add Light, Pose & Photograph) to outline the steps we took to compose, light, and capture the final image. (Please note: The photoshoots featured in this video, which are taken from our Lighting 4 Workshop: Creating Every Natural Light Effect Using Flash, were all filmed prior to COVID-19.)

[Related Reading: How to Simulate Natural Light for Athletic Portraits]

Step 1. Compose Your Shot

Before you touch your lighting gear or even pick up your camera, decide on the type of image that you want to create and compose your shot. This involves having an idea of where to place your subject, which direction you’re shooting in, and what is going to be in your background.

Use Flash to Create Golden Hour Pictures sun flare 01

For our scene in the abandoned train car, I wanted to shoot against the back window of the train, where the sunlight would naturally come in. I would ask the subject to face either forward or backward, depending on the shot I wanted to get. Knowing your composition first will play a key role in getting the light in the right position.

golden hour pictures sun flare composition framingFor a second set of images (included above with BTS), I moved the subject to a new place on the train and used the window to frame the subject within the scene. You’ll also notice I’ve incorporated more of the wall to the right to make the effect look more organic & convincing.

Step 2. Dial in Your Ambient Exposure Settings

Now, after you’ve decided on your composition for the photo, grab your camera and dial in your ambient exposure settings. As a general rule, when recreating a golden hour look, I usually go with a brighter ambient exposure.

Step 3. Add and Modify Light

golden hour pictures sun flare add light

We want to recreate golden hour sunlight, so we need to add an external flash. I placed a Profoto B10 in roughly the same spot outside of the train car where the sun would be. Basically, look at existing light direction in the scene and determine where the sound would be if you could see it.

I also placed a CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel on the B10 to further warm up the color temperature of the light we added to the picture. For practical reasons, I recommend placing the CTO gel on the flash unit before raising the light on the stand. If you need to funnel the light in order to fall more specifically on your subject, you may need to add a zoom reflector.

Take some test shots based on your ambient light exposure and adjust the flash power as needed. Use more power for more flare and less power for less flare.

[Related Reading: 10 Golden Hour Portraits that Will Have You Chasing the Sun]

Step 4. Pose Your Subject and Capture a Photo

At the start of the sequence, I placed the subject near the back window of the train and used the flare from the flash to light the shot and add visual appeal. Because the flash is where the sun would otherwise be, the effect is convincing.

Final Images

golden hour pictures sun flare final 01

golden hour pictures sun flare final 02

You can use any camera to capture artificial sun flare photos (so long as it is able to trigger your flash unit), but there are some tricks you should be aware of to ensure you get the shot you’re after.

Bonus Tip #1 – Take Multiple Shots while Moving The Camera

In order to capture the perfect sun flare,  you’ll need to move the camera around from left to right and so on while taking multiple photos of your subject. This will allow you to reveal and conceal the flare in the background and get just the right amount of flare. You don’t want the flare to be overpowering, but you don’t want it to be invisible, either.

Bonus Tip #2 – Raise Your ISO

Recreating golden hour pictures requires a lot of flash power (a minimum of 250-500 watt seconds with low ISO settings). Whenever you’re using flash to simulate golden hour, raise your ISO. Aim for 400, 800, or even 1600 if possible. There are a couple of reasons to do this:

  • Faster recycle times & fewer misfires: Lower ISO settings require a higher flash power, which results in slower recycle times between flashes. The added light from the higher ISO will allow you to bring down your flash power to minimize misfires due to slower recycle times.
  • More flash options: Because using a higher ISO requires less flash power, you can use a smaller flash, like the Profoto A1, to recreate sun flares.


To watch more episodes, be sure to check out the Profoto IGTV channel! We hope you enjoyed this episode of Slice of Pye; please feel free to share or re-watch the IGTV video at any time to reference the material we covered! For more tutorials and lessons on the fundamentals of lighting, check out our Flash Photography Training System!