Some of us are daytime photographers, others do night photography, and the rest just dabble across both. But what if you didn’t have to choose? What if we told you there was a way you can create a single image that will show day to night photography together?
You would probably be as stunned as we were when we first saw the images from Stephen Wilkes’ aptly named project, ‘Day and Night’.
The idea is simple. You capture two images, one during the daylight hours, and another during the nighttime.
The magic happens in the post-editing of the images, but if you are familiar with HDR, it won’t be too taxing.
Scout and Visualise
Firstly, you need to find a place to capture your day and night photographs. This location can be anywhere, but it needs to be a large area will some interesting elements. Also, the area needs to be used in both daytime and nighttime.
A great example of this would be to have something that will light up at nighttime, such as buildings. This will help to ensure that part of the scene isn’t boring.
Visualise how it is going to look. Can you see two areas in your image that will work well at both contrasted times of the day? Will the areas have enough light? Where are the two ideas going to meet?
By imagining the scene play out in front of you, you can have a better idea of how you are going to make it work.
Let’s make sure you have all the gear you are going to need:
- Camera with Lens. This can be a DSLR or Mirrorless system. As long as you can shoot in RAW format, your camera is fine. In terms of lens choice, you want to use something that gives you a wide enough angle of view to capture a wide area. A wide angle lens (35mm or below) will work well.
- Tripod. The tripod is going to hold your camera steady.
- Shutter Release Cable. A shutter release cable is going to take the image without you physically pressing the shutter release on the camera. This will minimalise camera shake, resulting in sharp, high-quality images.
Basically, any equipment that you may use for a landscape or architectural photograph will work well here.
We don’t need to use neutral density filters, but they are possible. You will just need to work them into your camera settings.
In terms of camera settings, RAW format is a must. This image format holds much more information than that of a jpeg image, which allows more play in post-editing.
You are going to be working in low light conditions, so a low ISO is needed for the best quality.
Use a closed down aperture, such as f/22 to keep the whole scene in focus. If you have many moving parts, such as leaves and people, consider a fast shutter speed above all.
This image is going to photograph a wide space, and your camera angle needs to reflect the scene for this particular style.
These images can be of landscapes, but architecture will also work well. The best vantage point should allow you to capture still and moving objects.
Generally, the image will be taken outdoors, so the sky will be present in the image. Adopting the rule of thirds here will help to compose the image well.
Having a line, or something similar in the centre will help you during the post-processing stage. It will allow you to meet the day and night areas of your image seamlessly.
Getting up high, and shooting at a downward angle is a great way to show a large space from an interesting point of view.
How to Capture the Daytime Shot
Once your camera is on the tripod, and you have framed your scene and changed the settings, you are now ready.
Avoid the sun at its highest (usually noon) as it will cast very long shadows. These shadows could be interesting, but they will be a nightmare to eliminate at a later stage.
Wait until before or after noon for the best light. Here, the natural sun is scattered and diffused, allowing an evenly exposed image. You could even use a polarizing filter to further enhance the sky.
When you capture the daytime shot, constantly scan the area for elements that may be interesting.
Double check the exposure and take a few bracketed images to ensure you have an exposure that works. Better to be safe than sorry.
In this project, we photographed a house as we will show the property during day and night. Easy, simple and will be vey effective, especially for all those property photographers out there.
How to Capture the Nighttime Shot
The nighttime shot will be tricker than the daytime capture. This is double when it comes to dark areas with no lights. Set your camera up to capture the right white balance, and account for the change in light.
This means increasing your ISO levels, widening your aperture or using a slower shutter speed.
Take as many test shots as you need to find the right conditions and the best exposure. The other thing to look out for are light sources that may change.
Moving cars can be made more interesting by using a slow shutter speed. Make sure to use the shutter release here to eliminate camera shake.
If the nighttime part of your image ha no lights to capture, think about focusing on the stars instead. This will definitely add interest and really push the fact that it is definitely nighttime.
In our image, we lit only one side of the house as that is going to be the nighttime section of the image.
Merge and Blend
Once you have your images, it is time to merge them together. For this, you will need an image editing software such as Camera Raw and Photoshop.
Here are the steps to creating a day and night photograph in Photoshop:
- Open your daytime and nighttime images into Photoshop
- Drag the nighttime layer on top of the daytime layer, ensuring they are on the same work area
- Select the top layer, and go to Layer>Layer Mask>Reveal All
- Here, you can paint through the image under this layer
- Go to the gradient tool on the left toolbar
- Click on the basic black and white gradient
- Click and drag the line horizontally across the middle of the image. Start the line where the fade is going to begin. In this image, we would click and drag left to right
- That will show the bottom layer (nighttime) shine through
- Clean up by using the paintbrush if needed. Feel free to change the contrast, exposure or any other adjustment.
And there you have it. It is simple to do, yet very effective.
If you find that you cannot wait hours for the sky to go dark, remember your camera settings and placement of your tripod. Use tape to mark the location and return.
The best idea would be to try and photograph as close to the end of the day as possible, so you have the minimal amount of time to wait.