A super-simple "golden hour" effect in Lightroom

I recently shot a friend's wedding, and was looking for nice way to add a warm "golden hour" effect to the photos. I didn't want to use a random preset as I wanted control over the rest of the processing; and adjusting the white balance wasn't giving me the subtle look I was going for.

After experimenting for a while I figured out a really simple technique. As the time of day changes the color of the sunlight, it primarily affects the highlights of an image and not the shadows. We can use the "Split Toning" module in Lightroom to add a subtle yellow tint to just the highlights while leaving the shadows alone.

In the Develop module of Lightroom, adjust the "Split Toning" Highlights setting to something like this:

You want to select a yellow-orange hue, and increase the saturation to about 30% -- any more than that and you risk it becoming distracting rather than subtle.

Here's a sample before and after using a photo of my good friend Nai taken during SXSW. The shot was taken at about 4:30 in the afternoon, which is too early for golden hour at this time of year in Austin.

Nai chillin' at the Spotify House An example of warming the highlights using split toning to create a "golden hour" effect

blog comments powered by Disqus