I see a lot of portraits taken using this, what I would call "golden" looking effect. I have never been able to figure out how to achieve this kind of effect.

The image is quite warm but that's not just it, there are other colour changes but hard to pinpoint which.

I mostly use Lightroom so would like to know if it's possible to achieve using either this or photoshop as another option.

golden effect

  • I know you're talking about color, but a large part of the "look" of this picture is the narrow depth of field right at the subject. Jan 11, 2015 at 14:29
  • Can you provide the original photo? I think split tone is the way to get those colors.
    – felipecrp
    Jan 12, 2015 at 2:05
  • Nik software's Color Efex has a "Reflector" effect that imitates a golden light source, I think it would work well for this purpose
    – baptiste
    Jan 14, 2015 at 16:57

5 Answers 5


An important part of that look is the lighting, which is most likely achieved by shooting during the golden hour. You can also tell from the lack of harsh shadows on the subject.

Besides that, I see a green/yellow predominance in the tint, probably reproducible by white balance correction.

I did a quick experiment using GIMP, and using color balance towards green and yellow, against magenta and blue respectively.

The image comes from Wikimedia images.

enter image description here enter image description here

Not exactly the same, but should give the idea.


You can reverse-engineer the coloring in Lightroom. In the following copy I simply white-balanced on the subject's shirt, resulting in this "less-golden" image that looks more likely true to the original color. Lightroom indicates that the transformation "back to normal" involved significant color shifts towards blue and magenta (-15 temp and +11 tint).

enter image description here

  • 1
    Maybe it's good to mention that you reversed the effect with the shift towards blue and magenta, and thus to reproduce it you have to do the opposite.
    – clabacchio
    Jan 12, 2015 at 12:07

I don't think the original photo was produced using only global white balance adjustment. It appears to have been produced using mixed light sources (fill strobes not matched to the ambient light temperature) and/or some local adjustments as well. This can be done by selecting various areas in different layers and altering the color for that specific area. The eyes and pants seem to be biased towards blue. There is is lot of red/magenta in the background, particularly the tree trunks. The grass in the foreground is less saturated in terms of green than the grass in the background. Different areas of the photo seem to be either lit when shot or adjusted later in the direction of practically every area of the color wheel.

If you adjust the image based on the assumption the lightest areas in her shoes are "white" (where they would be least affected by any warmth from direct golden hour sunlight), you get a slightly red skin tone and eye color along with an off-white sweater. But then elements in the background, especially the tree trunks and some of the leaves, appear to be significantly shifted towards blue which wouldn't be likely during the golden hour.

enter image description here

If you assume the whites of her eye are white (which works fairly well under certain types of light that normally includes daylight) then her skin tone looks even more natural, but everything else turns green. Notice the tree trunks now look natural, but the sky has too much green in it.

enter image description here

  • +1 with the edit re mixed light sources — that was my thought too. It might also explain the vignetting in the lower corners, although that could also be added in post.
    – mattdm
    Jan 13, 2015 at 14:55

This would be pretty easy to do using colo(u)r balance in photoshop

shadows boosted blue + magenta

mid-tones more magenta

more cyan and yellow in highlights


While you may be able to edit the file into looking a little bit like that, specially if you use layered edition in photoshop, the easiest, fastest and I'd even say best way of achieving that effect is to just shoot in the golden hour.


That photo was taken during the golden our. It's not straight out of the camera but the only tweaking it has had is adjusting white and black levels and I think saturaion.

Golden hour + shallow dof tends to naturally give you that look, were as trying to imitate that effect is not an easy task (it can be done of course, with either artificial lighting or with a lot of photoshop editing, but it's not easy.

Update: taken with my phone, 5 minutes ago... You just put someone against that light and you get your "golden" effect. Straight from the phone, no edits whatsoever.

Sample golden hour light

  • 1
    I've been doing portraits during the golden hour for a long time and not achieved those kind of colours. Also despite what you say about the golden hour, a lot still comes down to white balance and your exposure settings anyway, especially as there doesn't seem to be that much strong light in this picture which is also a golden hour element.
    – connersz
    Jan 13, 2015 at 14:02
  • Don't understand the downvote, what are you saying? That images like that one (which I took and I know for a fact hasn't been edited) can't be performed without photoshop editing or that golden hour doesn't have anything to do with it? If you shot at 1pm you'll have to change half the photo to achieve that effect due to the harsh direct white light, if you shot at golden hour you don't, it's all about the light helping you better achieve an effect, if you think is more about the editing than about the light then you need to review your photography concepts. Jan 13, 2015 at 15:09
  • I wasn't suggesting that it has been edited (although that wouldn't be a problem given this post is about editing anyway). It just doesn't answer the question which specifically asking whether it's possible to achieve using LR or PS. If I see a suitable answer whether it be "no" or otherwise, I will then attempt to try out the technique on some "golden hour" photos, if they are best suited to the effect.
    – connersz
    Jan 13, 2015 at 20:50

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