How to Transform a Photo from Day to Night!

by | 1 year ago

I always love trying new techniques and improving my skills, so this issue I’ll show you a great way to transform your photo from a basic daylight shot to a sunset/night shot. We’ll be using the local adjustment tools, and you’ll soon learn how quick and easy it is. It’s lots of fun too! 

Step One: Let’s start with this daytime photo taken in Paris. We’ll turn it into a nice blue-hour photo!

Step Two: For a basic retouch, start in the Basic panel to set the overall colors. Move the Temp slider to 4012 and Tint to +34; lower the Exposure to –1.00, set the Blacks to –7, and the Whites to +51. 

Step Three: Make your photo more dynamic by cropping it to a more panoramic aspect ratio; 16:9 works well for this photo. Using the Crop Overlay tool (R), select 16×9 in the Aspect drop-down menu in the crop options, adjust your crop boundary, and press Enter. 

Step Four: A rule that I always keep in mind is that a partially lit object is more interesting than a fully lit object, so let’s apply that when we “complexify” the light. When the sun goes down, the city lights start to turn on. We can use the Radial Filter (Shift-M) to re-create those lights. It’s simple: Drag out a Radial Filter where you want the light (in this case, we’re starting with one of the lampposts on the bridge), boost the Exposure to 2.93, Temp to 79, and Clarity to –100. Make sure that Invert is turned on so the effect is inside the circle, and then Feather it to 100 for a more natural look. Make sure to zoom in to be more precise! 

Step Five: One tip to keep the light looking really natural is to set the Range Mask drop-down to Luminance and then adjust the Range sliders to prevent any halos. Now that the first light is set, let’s apply that Radial Filter to all the lights. Just Right-click inside the Radial Filter, select Duplicate in the contextual menu, and drag the duplicate to the next light. The further away the light in your photo, the smaller you’ll need to make the Radial Filter. Repeat for all the lights. 

Step Six: To make the overall lights more natural, create a larger Radial Filter that encompasses all the lights you just created. (In this example you can see how many Radial Filters I added to the image.) Boost the Exposure of the larger Radial Filter to 0.54, the Temp to 18, and Clarity to –5. This creates the illusion of the light that all the lights would be casting. 

Step Seven: As a side note, whenever using any of the local adjustment tools, my advice is to set the Show Edit Pins function (below the image on the left) to Auto. Now when you move your cursor outside the picture, the pins will be hidden. This makes it easier for you to see what you’ve accomplished with your local adjustments, and you can really appreciate the changes. 

Step Eight: Let’s work on the sky! We want to create that blue-hour effect, and we can do that using a Graduated Filter (M). Set both the Tint and Temp to around 22, and lower the Exposure to –1.30 and the Clarity to –100 to soften the clouds. 

Step Nine: You can now tweak your overall photo to complete the look. Here, we lowered the Highlights to –73, boosted the Shadows to +67, and added some Contrast at +38. 

Step 10: To close up the bottom of the photo, you can add another Graduated Filter and lower the Exposure to –1.31 and Shadows to 41. 

Step 11: As a final touch, let’s add some light coming from the sun: Use a large Radial Filter, Invert it, Feather it to 100, and set the Temp to 39, Tint to 9, Exposure to 0.54, and Clarity to –5. 

Here are the before and after photos. It’s a very cool trick, isn’t it? 

Example #2 

Alright, let’s do the same thing with another photo. This one was taken in Montmartre, Paris, which is a beautiful area. 

Step One: First, we’ll do a basic retouch by setting the Tint to +18, Temp to 4941, Highlights to –44, Blacks to –31, Shadows to +73, and Contrast to +44. 

Step Two: Now that we’ve established the night look, it’s time to light up the street lamps. Use a Radial Filter on a light source in the image, Invert it, Feather it to 100, boost the Exposure to 1.98, and set the Temp to 80 and Clarity –100. 

Step Three: Using the same idea as in the first example, set Range Mask to Luminance and adjust the Range (20/100, in this example) to prevent halos. Then duplicate the Radial Filter as needed, place it into position, and resize it for the light source. Repeat as necessary. 

Step Four: We can create that natural overall glow created by each group of lights with a larger Radial Filter, setting the Temp to 55, Exposure to 2.14, and Clarity to –100. Add a separate Radial Filter to each group to make it appear as if they’re lighting up the building. 

Step Five: Now let’s create a dramatic sky using a Gradient Filter. Lower the Temp to –33, the Tint to 8, and the Exposure to –1.28. Set the Range Mask to Luminance and the Range sliders to 63/100 for a more natural look. 

Step Six: To finish, let’s use the Adjustment Brush (K) to create an even more dramatic look by making it appear as if some of the light from the building is spilling onto the sidewalk and street. Set the Feather to 100, paint where you want the light, and then slightly boost the Exposure to 0.54. 

And, here are our before and after photos. 

As part of my workflow, I use presets that include Adjustment Brushes, Graduated Filters, and Radial Filters for this effect. That way, I can create this look much faster. I hope you learned something new with this article. It’s fun creating these moods and transforming your photos with just the local adjustment tools!