How to Shoot a Nighttime Photo During the Day

The night always offers photographers a grittier, moodier atmosphere in photos—not to mention as much light control as you can carry in flashes. But it’s not always possible to shoot at night, and when it is, the darkness can be a hinderance as much as a potential boon. This video shows you how to replicate the effects of night during an overcast day:

The first step, according to photographer Gavin Hoey, is to overpower the ambient light. As you can see from his initial test shot below, shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II, the regular amount of light looks fine, but rather flat at ISO 200, f/4 and a 1/10 of a second shutter speed.

gavin hooey photography

Hoey darkens image by simply upping the shutter speed to 1/80, achieving a purposely too-dark effect, but a good base for mimicking nighttime hours.

how to make day into night photo

Next, you need to light up the scene. Hoey places two lights here: one for the foreground and one to separate the model from the background, giving her more definition. For the foreground, he’s using a Glow ParaPop softbox; for the backlight, he’s using a Sekonic L-308s. Both are solid base lights for fashion and studio shoots.

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With the lighting looking good, he changes the light balance setting to “incandescent” or “tungsten”—that creates a more natural blueness, giving a feeling of light. He offsets this with an orange gel over the front-most flash to ensure his model’s skin tone isn’t unnaturally indigo.

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Lastly, he illuminates some smoke behind the model with a third light and a smoke machine. The model’s body blocks the third light, which is a clever placement; it creates a nice halo effect around the model, and erases the worry of having to Photoshop out a light from the final image. Voila:

portrait of archer in the woods at night

After a few touch-ups in Photoshop—mostly balancing luminance and color balance—the shot’s good to go. It’s not the quickest process, and Hoey’s overly dramatic aesthetic is unique in this case, but if you’ve got to make a nighttime shot during daytime hours, it’s not impossible.

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