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Have you ever been out in the middle of the day shooting, dealing with harsh mid-day light, wishing you had something different to work with? What if you could turn that harsh daylight into a moody moonlit night, right in camera? Let me show you how!

 

Go from this daylight scene to…
This moonlit night scene

The technical

For this short tutorial I’m going to give you the technical settings type of stuff right here in this section so it’s easy to reference. The rest will be just some things to think about as you experiment further!

Like I mentioned, this is a technique to get you pretty much where you need to be right in camera. No fancy Photoshop skill needed. However, if you are shooting RAW you will need to adjust your image a bit in Lightroom/Photoshop/Editing Program of your choice. The RAW file will retain the exposure data, but give you a flatter looking image than what you saw on the back of your camera.

Step One

Set your camera white balance to the “Tungsten” setting. If you can’t find that you can set the white balance as cool as possible. Well, maybe not as cool as possible, but as cool as you think looks like moonlight in color.

Step Two

Dial in between -1 to -3 in negative exposure compensation using your exposure compensation dial on your camera. What that will do is really darken the image to further add to the illusion of your photograph being taken at night.

Step Three (Optional)

I found that setting my camera to spot metering mode during the bright mid-day sun helped me control the light better. Your mileage may vary however. But if you are stuck or struggling with bright light, spot metering can help you dial in exactly what you are wanting.

Aaaand….That’s it! Really, it’s about all there is to it. It’s a technique filmmakers often use because capturing clean video/film footage at night without massive lighting rigs can be pretty difficult due to constraints of the film/video process.

Some additional tips

I spent a little time exploring a stand of pines out in nature for the example photos here and I had a lot of fun with how they turned out. They have a bit of an eerie look, I almost expect a werewolf to run through the scenes. But this technique can work just about anywhere, in any setting, with one catch.

You need to always be aware of the light sources. So if you are shooting in nature it’s going to be more believable if you DON’T include the sky or the sun in your image. Typically at night the sky is way darker than anything on the ground and during the day it’s pretty tough to fake that. Not impossible, but more difficult. In the photo below with the truck in it, you’ll see some sky there. I had to severely underexpose this image to make it look like the sky on a full moon night.

Speaking of light sources, remember that if you are shooting anywhere populated things like street lights, signs, lamps, car headlights, etc will potentially ruin your otherwise fantastic image. If you have a scene of a busy street that you are trying this with but none of the lights are on anywhere the illusion will fall apart.

Most of all, have fun experimenting! If you try it out and get some fun results let me know, I’d love to see what you come up with!

-DS-

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