Esther Beaton


How to Turn Daylight into Night

looks like it was photographed by the light of the moon
This graveyard shot looks like it was photographed by the light of the moon. In fact, it was in broad, sunny daylight.

There are several reasons to shoot at nighttime. Sometimes you want to create a gloomy, scary or heavy atmosphere. Sometimes the story or subject you want to illustrate occurred at night. But what to do if you are at your location in the middle of the day with no chance to return later? 

captured in ordinary daylight
This is how the graveyard shot looked in camera – captured in ordinary daylight.

That’s what happened to me. It was midday when I was scouting for a cemetery where I could hold a Meetup event. But I wanted to show the scene in the way it would likely appear when we arrived at night. 

To create such a shot at noon, I followed this 3 step process:

  1. Choose a scene in shadow or with lots of shadows facing the camera.
  2. Underexpose by about two stops.
  3. Dial in a heavy blue colour balance. Instead of using the preset WB settings on your camera, go into the menu (usually the Shooting Menu), where you find the Kelvin values of available colours. Either move the curser to the depth of blue you want, or dial in about 5500 or more degrees Kelvin. 

Then, back at the computer, it’s another 2 quick steps:

  1. Darken any highlights that snuck into the frame. Sometimes I find it’s easier to clone them out. 
  2. Finish off with a dark vignette around the edges, darkening until the mood is as gloomy as you wish. 
photographed later in the day, close to sunset
Although photographed later in the day, close to sunset, there is still too much daylight for the moody effect I wanted for this cemetery scene.
turn this picture into a night time scene
The same steps were followed to turn this picture into a scene which anyone would think was taken at night.

Afterwards, oh my gosh, the participants really got into the event! What resulted were some of the most creative shots I ever imagined. The standout results, in my view were those of Marj and Carissa. 

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