Welcome to part 4 of an 8-part series on Lightroom presets and how they work. To go with this...Read More
Old movies (and quite a few new ones) are full of ‘pretend’ night shots. The look like they were taken in moonlight, but it’s all an illusion created by clever use of exposure, colour and filters.
There are three things you can do to get this ‘moonlight’ look. The first is to shoot in direct sunlight because technically sunlight and moonlight look just the same, it’s just that the moon is considerably dimmer.
And you can simulate this by reducing the exposure. Don’t be faint-hearted about this. You can drag it right down until the shadows become solid and impenetrable and even the well-lit parts of the scene are quite dark. That’s how moonlight looks to the naked eye, so it’s all part of the illusion.
Finally, we all have the idea that moonlight has a blue tone. Technically, it doesn’t, but it’s probably something to do with the way the rods and cones in our retinas react to very low light levels. This is one more tool you can use in your photo-editing software to finish off this ‘moonlight’ look.
Actually, there are a couple more things. You can also use a graduated filter effect to darken the sky and, if you have one handy, you can add a real moon to the sky – though you’ll need software that supports image layers.
It’s very easy to produce an effect that looks overcooked and cheesy (believe me, I know), but if you get everything just right it can be surprisingly compelling.