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I have seen many pictures like this recently, and would like to know how to achieve the look of the sky like this and skin more golden. What tools and actions to use?

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    \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure why this got a downvote. This 1) has a sample photo aand 2) clearly describes the desired effect in the title and text. What more do you want? \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 9:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ You ask the photographer ideally. And don't assume that the background wasn't done in post processing using e.g. a green screen approach. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 8:58

4 Answers 4


You can achieve this using flash, gels, and white balance.

Set your WB so that the background (the clouds) has the desired colour tone, this will probably involve a lower WB setting than the one AutoWB would select. (By selecting a WB which is warmer than reality, the image gets colder).

Light your subject with flash, with a warming gel on the flash to get that "golden look".

The background will be exposed by ambient light, the subject by the flash. Balancing the two, you can achieve any colouring and lighting ratio you desire.

See also: Strobist: Lighting 103: Using Gels to Shift the Ambient

Doing the same in post processing in eg. Photoshop or GIMP would involve creating a mask for the subject and then applying different WB or any other colour / brightness / contrast adjustments to background and subject.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ You wouldn't necessarily need to use masks to do it in post. Using an HSL/HSV tool to desaturate blue/aqua while leaving red/orange/yellow intact would probably be enough. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 7:50

The simplest way to achieve this look is to shoot in appropriate weather conditions around sunset. Dark clouds behind the subject with the sun setting or low in the sky under a clear part of the sky will give this effect without any special processing.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't see it being simple finding those weather conditions. If you had a model and had a specific shot in mind you might need to spend days, weeks, or more trying to get the shot right depending on where you're located. \$\endgroup\$
    – caesay
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 15:52

In addition to ways to shoot this, I want to talk a little more about how to post-process this in lightroom or photoshop.

before / after sample image

In this example I exaggerated the blue in the sky and gave the skin a bright red/magenta tone to demonstrate.

In Lightroom:

  1. Choose a primary element, in this case I used the sky first
  2. Adjust the photo until the sky has the effect/colors you want (white balance)
  3. Use an adjustment brush and paint the skin (see more here if unclear on this step)
  4. Adjust skin to compensate for white balance of background, to your own liking

In Photoshop:

  1. Duplicate the background layer, and make adjustments until the skin is as desired
  2. Duplicate the background layer again, bring it to the top of the layers panel, and make adjustments until the sky is as desired.
  3. Add a layer mask to the sky layer, starting with the mask being completely white
  4. Paint the layer mask with a black brush over the skin until all of the skin is showing through. If you make a mistake or go over an edge, you can re-paint an area with white to undo.
  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 "Curves!" was my first reaction to the question. The great thing about "fixing in post" is that it's essentially free (assuming photographer already has the software). \$\endgroup\$
    – coblr
    Commented Mar 9, 2018 at 23:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @coblr Fixing in post is only free if your time is worthless. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 0:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DavidRicherby, ah, touché. As a non-professional in the field, I hadn't considered that. \$\endgroup\$
    – coblr
    Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 0:35
  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ @coblr Well, we non-professionals tend to have a limited amount of time available, and might prefer to spend that time doing something else. (Of course, retouching images with Photoshop is just as good a hobby as pointing the camera at things and pressing the button, so it's always a matter of personal preference.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Mar 10, 2018 at 9:39

I've achieved a similar effect with an LED light that allows a custom color temperature to be set by mixing a bank of cool (5600K) LEDs with a bank of warm LEDs (3200K) that allows the desired color temp to be "dialed in".

Used outdoors, auto white balance (at least on a Canon body) seems to pick the cooler temperature as the reference point, leaving the sky with a natural color and the subject with a warm cast on them. Of course, you can set the white balance manually if you don't like the results.

LED lights are easy to work with, but if you are working in bright ambient light you'll need a flash (likely with a gel to color it, as @ths suggests).

A cheaper, simpler method is to use a golden reflector. It's essential to have a solid stand to hold the reflector, or (better) an assistant that can direct the light of the sun onto your subject.

Even if you want a consistent color temperature overall, reflectors are very useful for softening shadows and filling dark areas on your subject.


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