If you take a look at professional photographs of people outdoors, you will see photographs of people positively ‘glowing’ with health and vitality and have you ever wondered whether people actually look like that? Sickeningly brimming full of goodness, and golden hues just radiating from their every pore.
Well, I am sorry to tell you, but like so many things in photography, it is a fraud! A photographic ‘trick’ but one that you can use to your own advantage. A trick that will cost you about 100 baht for the equipment and three minutes to master!
However, all photographic tricks still have to conform to the basic rules of physics, in particular the rules of light. Light travels in straight lines and will bounce off any non-transparent object. And that, quite simply, is the scientific basis to this trick. That wasn’t hard, was it?
The ‘golden glow’ that comes from the subject in the photo, is really just reflected golden light, bounced back on to the subject. People shots benefit from this warm healthy look and when you use the technique properly, the results can be spectacular, and look very professional.
Now in the photographic sense, there is a natural golden glow that comes in the late afternoon, with the sun getting low on the horizon. There are good scientific reasons why this is so, but here is not the place to discuss them. Just accept the fact that late afternoon sun is the “warm” time, whilst mornings are the ‘blue’ cold time. Take pictures late in the afternoon and you will get that golden glow – but my photographic trick will allow you to get that warm golden glow at any time of day – and control it as well, something you cannot do so easily with the sun as your light source! The celestial lighting technician can hide behind clouds at any time.
What you have to do is build a light reflector that produces that warm color. Go to the newsagent and get some gold foil paper. The sort of wrapping paper you use for wedding gifts. It may be embossed or patterned, and in fact it is better if it is, but must be gold in color. Glue the gold paper on to a sheet of cardboard or polystyrene sheet approximately one meter square. You do not have to be deathly accurate or neat. If the surface gets a little ‘scrunched up’ that is fine too. Your capital outlay is probably around 50-100 baht. Not bad, so far!
Now you have a reflector, which if you play with it near a window for example, will shine “gold” on to any subject. You are now ready to impart that golden glow.
The best photos for this exercise are people shots taken outdoors, with the sun behind the subject. This we call ‘back lit’. You will find that the subject’s hair becomes very bright around the edges, almost like a ‘halo’ effect.
Now for the addition of the golden glow. To do this, you position your reflector to shine some sunlight back towards the subject (that is why the sun should be behind the subject). Prop the reflector in the best position to give the degree of golden glow you want (I generally just prop it up with the camera bag, or you can get an assistant to hold it for you) and look through the viewfinder. See what a difference this makes? The ugly chin shadow has gone as the light is coming upwards, and the subject now has skin that looks brilliantly glowing and healthy. The one meter square reflector will also impart catchlights to eyes to make them sparkle as well. The end photo has shiny hair, bright eyes and a golden complexion radiating warmth. A fabulous picture.
Now, the downside! It is more difficult to get the correct exposure setting in the backlit situation. If your camera has a Backlight button, then use it. If not, walk in close to the subject so that the person’s face fills the frame, and take your exposure reading from there. Use the exposure lock, or just memorize the readings and put them in on manual mode. It is worth it.