HDR Tutorial – Day to Night
I am often confronted by other photographers (purists) and/or strongly opinionated laymen about the “heavy” editing of my photos. “It’s not really photography when you alter your photos with Photoshop!”, They exclaim. To which I reply, “Well I don’t only consider myself a photographer, but more-so a photo-illustrator.”
With over 10 years of photographic experience I am more than capable of capturing a “true” photograph with zero further enhancements or edits needed…But why stop there? For me, taking a good photograph is just the first step in creating a work of art. The photograph can be used as a starting point, a canvas if you will. If that canvas is in bad shape, the painting isn’t going to come out that well. But if you have a solid and clean canvas (photograph) your art will shine.
Here we have a photo of a building. It was taken at around 12:00PM so naturally the lighting is very bland and boring. But what if we can turn this into a dynamic night time photo? Well, we can, and that’s what I’m going to teach you now. When we are done the photo will look like this.
***This technique will work with HDR and NON-HDR Photos. I love Surreal HDR for the fantasy like feeling it gives so I find this technique works really well with it but this will work for regular photos as well***
After processing my bracketed photos in Photomatix, this is what my image looks like.
For more information on my Surreal HDR editing, see my previous article.
Next we will open our image in Photoshop.
Create a “Solid Color” Fill Layer. Change the color of this fill layer to a dark blue color. This color will be dependent on your image and own personal taste. Since it is an adjustment layer don’t worry about it being perfect right now, you will be able to go back and change it later. Set the layer style to “Multiply” and reduce the opacity to around 85%. This is intended to simulate the darkness and coolness of a night scene.
This by itself is an effective way to produce a night scene from a daytime photo. However, if your photo has any lights (street lights, windows, candles, etc) we can take this even further.
Duplicate the background layer and drag it to the top. You should have the “background copy” on top, a solid fill adjustment layer in the middle, and your original background layer on the bottom.
The layer we just made will simulate the eminating light from the light sources in your photo.
Create a Layer Mask for this layer and fill it with Black, hiding the layer. (SHORTCUT: Select the layer, Hold down ALT and click the Mask icon at the bottom of the layers panel) We will now use the Lasso Tool to create a triangle/Hershey Kiss shaped selection, the top of the shape at the light source. See picture below for example.
Go the the Select Drop Down Menu, and choose Refine Edge. (SHORTCUT: ALT+CTRL+R)
Use the feather slider to feather your selection. Imagine the selection as the light coming out of the light source. The number of feathered pixels will differ depending on your image so it is really a matter of taste. Click OK when your satisfied with your adjustment.
Now select the Linear Gradient Tool. Set your foreground color to white and your background color to black. Click at the top of your selection and drag down towards to bottom of your selection and let go. This will give the look of the light falling off as it gets further away from the light source.
Repeat the process with all the other light sources. You may need to do some cleaning up if the selections are too big or too small, but this is all being done in a layer mask so its a very easy fix. Just use black or white to subtract or add this light!
To change the color and intensity of the light you can create adjustment layers.
For example, create a Photo Filter adjustment layer above the top layer (the light layer) and hold down ALT and hover your mouse over the line between these two layers. An arrow will appear, click that. This will make it so the Photo Filter will only affect that one layer. You can now use this to warm or cool the light. I used it to warm the light to contrast to cool scene.
If you want to enhance the sky a bit more you can drop in another sky from another scene using layer masks, you can do selective adjustments using adjustment layers, etc. In my photo I made my own stars and mixed it in with the existing sky because I liked the clouds that were there.
Please feel free to email me or send me a link to images you try this on. I would love to see them and if you want, give advice if wanted. I love to help where I can!
REMEMBER! Don’t be afraid to edit your photos. Your not only a photographer, you are an artist!