Lighting The Way: Caroline Martin’s Techniques Give Merchants Square Imagery a Golden Hour Feel

May 27, 2020
Photographer Spotlight

Caroline Martin overcame a few significant challenges during a recent shoot at Merchants Square in the heart of Williamsburg, Virginia. Over the course of nearly two days, the freelancer got imagery for the tourism spot’s website. The main challenge? Most of the shots had to have a “golden hour” feel regardless of what time of day they were photographed. In addition she had to put nearly the whole project together.

This was my first full production shoot with a tourism focus. I was proud of my ability to plan, coordinate, and direct the entire shoot. It was my responsibility to hire the crew, schedule the shots based on the best lighting, and make sure everything was running smoothly on the days of the shoot.

Caroline Martin Merchants Square online tear example

I am also proud of the lighting techniques that I was able to use during several of the shots to create a golden hour “look” even in harsh sun or overcast skies. My client was particularly interested in a lot of the shots having a golden hour light feel, so I had to create that artificially in many of the shots. I was very pleased with how those shots turned out.

In order to meet this request head-on, Caroline had to figure out which shots would be easiest to get with artificial lighting. The more difficult images — the ones that needed to be created during the actual golden hour — were made without the use of such techniques.  

Our initial challenge was just timing. As mentioned before, my client wanted to have most every shot captured at golden hour. That was impossible during the 1.5-day timeframe we had, so I had to shoot the shots at actual golden hour that would be most difficult to “fake” with artificial lighting. I then set up lighting to mimic golden hour for a majority of the other shots so that we could still complete the shoot in the timeframe we were allotted with the desired effect.

An example of Caroline nailing the artificial lighting can be seen right on the Merchants Square website. The image was part of the original shot list, so the fact that Caroline had it as one of the best deliverables shows she was on the ball for this shoot.

Caroline Martin Merchants Square BTS shot

One of my favorite shots is the one of the older couple having dinner and wine at The Trellis. I had a vision for the feel of this shot that I was able to capture exactly as I saw it. We were struggling with harsher light than we expected and a couple of other challenges.

Caroline Martin Merchants Square final deliverable

I had my assistants completely shade the couple and I then recreated the golden hour lighting with two strobes.

Caroline Martin Merchants Square another online tear

Of course, the slew of new experiences for Caroline meant she learned quite a bit about this kind of work. The new tips and tricks she picked up have to do with both the preparation and execution aspect of an assignment.

One thing that I learned was to plan in more time than you think you will need for all of the shots. We did pretty well fitting in as many shots as we did in a day and a half, but adding in a bit more cushion to the time would have allowed for more creative freedom and a more relaxed crew. I also gained valuable experience in lighting and equipment needed for a variety of situations. I am more confident now in knowing exactly how to manipulate lighting and to create a scene that fits with my client’s vision for each shot.

Not only did Caroline turn in high quality work, she did so as a result of her preparedness and resourcefulness. If the images themselves don’t attract potential clients, then knowing the kind of person who shot them certainly would. Anyone who works with Caroline is getting an individual who’s easy to work with and can complete an ask-heavy assignment in short order.

I think these images are a good foundation for some of the tourism work I would like to get in the future. Most of the shots from this project were more lifestyle based, which I love, but I would also like to shoot more scenic and detail shots as well. I think the shots from this project are a good way of showing future clients some of the possible ways we could capture people enjoying different activities in a particular destination.


Art Director: Christy Keeler, Howell Creative Group
Modeling Agency: Liquid Talent
First Assistant: Eric Carlson
Second Assistant: Chuck Rudisill
Wardrobe Stylist: Sydney Lester, Chic Stripes
Hair/Makeup: Ashlyn Landrum, Transformations Artistry
Hair/Makeup: Kelsea Dayberry
Commercial Drone Photographer: Mike Resendes

Check out more of Caroline's work at

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