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Archive 2007 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial

  
 
thapamd
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Image_5.jpg

Night photography can be both fun and challenging. Difficult lighting condition is often the biggest stumbling block on your path to obtaining a captivating photograph. How often have you seen a beautiful, colorful sunset above a city skyline, only to wish the building lights were already on? By the time the building lights do finally turn on (or become conspicuous against the ambient light), the sunset hues in the sky have disappeared. Wouldn’t it be great if we could capture both the tones in the sunset sky and the building lights on a single image? In this tutorial, I will show you, step by step, how to accomplish this very task. It’s easier than you think. All you need is a sturdy tripod, Photoshop (or similar program) and some patience. With helpful images, I’ll walk you through the steps of both acquiring and processing your photograph. I’ll be using Photoshop CS3 Beta for the demonstration. However, all the steps should also be available in older versions. Let’s begin!

Find your composition. This is perhaps the single most important step. Make sure your tripod legs are very steady. You want to minimize camera movement as much as possible. If conditions are windy, you may want to hang some weight (a heavy backpack, for example), on your tripod. Compose your image and turn autofocus off. Why turn autofocus off, you ask? As you take subsequent images, the ambient light will be falling off very quickly, and your autofocus may “hunt” and become inaccurate. Therefore, prefocus on your spot of interest and turn on the manual focus. If you have a cable release and/or mirror lock up, use them. From here on, you don’t want to touch the camera or tripod. If you have to touch the camera, you want to do it as gently as possible and as infrequently as possible. Remember camera movement is your enemy. Here are some other settings I use: ISO 100; aperture priority; f-stop with high depth of field (usu f/11-f/16 on a standard zoom lens); auto white balance; noise reduction off.

The below image is a direct RAW conversion of a sunset scene. This image (and subsequent images) has only been resized, sharpened, and bordered for web presentation. I also included an image of the layer’s palette. As you can see, the sky has some nice pink hues. Some of the building lights have come on, but not very many, or they are difficult to see against the ambient light. Let’s not worry about such things as contrast and levels just yet. We’ll take care of those in the end.

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Image_1.jpg

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_1.jpg

The image below was taken about 20 minutes after the 1st image. As you can see, the color in the sky has all but disappeared, but the buildings look a lot more interesting.

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Image_2.jpg

Use [Command]-A to select all of the 2nd image. Then paste it on to the 1st image. The layers palette of your 1st image should look like this (the sunset shot is your Background, and the building light shot is your Layer 1):

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_2.jpg

Click on the blending option and make sure you change it from “normal” to “lighten.” The resulting image looks kind funny, doesn’t it? The building lights look great but the sky has an “unnatural” mixture of pink and gray clouds.

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_3.jpg

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Image_3.jpg

We can correct the sky with some judicious use of the gradient and paint brush tools on the mask. While you have Layer 1 selected, click on the mask icon at the bottom of the layers palette. Your layers palette should now look like this:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_4.jpg

On the Layer 1 mask, apply a “background to foreground” gradient. Apply the gradient from top to bottom. You can see the sky looks pink but we have “lost” some of the building lights. This is easily correctable. Select the brush icon and paint over building areas while you have the Layer 1 mask selected. The building lights magically reappear. It’s not so important to “stay within the lines” of the buildings because you have already selected “lighten” as your layers option, and only the brighter portion from the two images will show through. The resulting image and layers palette are shown below:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Image_4.jpg

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_5.jpg

The history palette below shows all the steps I’ve performed so far:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_6.jpg

We’re almost finished. All I do now is apply curves and levels layers as below:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_7.jpg

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_8.jpg

When I applied the levels tool, the sky became a richer shade of pink, but the bottom of the image became too dark. Therefore, I added a mask to the levels layer and applied a gradient to the mask as below:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_9.jpg

Here’s the history palette showing all the steps I performed to arrive at the final image:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Palette_10.jpg

Finally, here’s the finished image of the Seattle sunset skyline:

https://www.fredmiranda.com/hosting-data//500/7096Image_5.jpg



Jan 26, 2007 at 03:30 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Excellent tutorial Mahesh, I'm sure there are many who will get great use out of this Next you have to do a tutorial on HDR Merge

Al



Jan 26, 2007 at 03:43 AM
pascupixar
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


What a great Tutorial. Thank you very much fot your time and effort. I ask for another tutorial apart for the HRR merge tutorial amgolds suggested: Sharpen tutorial. Not only in post-processing but also when taking the frame, as I supose you use something things like hyper focal and so on.
Again, thanks fot the tutorial.
Pascual.



Jan 26, 2007 at 05:41 AM
xpzhang
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Thank you so much for the tutorial.



Jan 26, 2007 at 05:56 AM
warp10
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Really helpful. Excellent photo, as always. Thanks sf


Jan 26, 2007 at 06:16 AM
ScaryFox
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Thanks for this, very good.
Ute



Jan 26, 2007 at 06:48 AM
hlmbks
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Any other tutorials?
This one is great.

Tim



Jan 26, 2007 at 08:22 AM
bshamilton
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Great work, Mahesh. Simple and clear.
Thanks for the help. I, too, await an hdr tut!

Barry



Jan 26, 2007 at 08:24 AM
VouS
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Great Tutorial Mahesh.. Thanks for putting it up..

I am on the queue too waiting for the HDR tutorial



Jan 26, 2007 at 08:32 AM
nikt
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Thats a fantastic tutorial. Would love to see more of this, than "which lens" posts. This is whats going to progress photography.


Jan 26, 2007 at 08:39 AM
Alex Nail
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


This really is great. Please continue......!

Alex



Jan 26, 2007 at 08:54 AM
ltr03
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Great tutorial Mahesh.


Jan 26, 2007 at 09:08 AM
JimFox
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Hey Mahesh,

Thanks for this! This was well laid out and very easy to follow. I appreciate the tips about the lighten blend, and also the couple of steps where you did the gradient mask. Interesting that I have been using a similar technique, but I select an area and feather it generously as part of the adjustment mask. It is nice to know I am on the right path here!

I can appreciate everyone's desire to have a HDR tutorial, but I hope these tutorials aren't rushed out, but that some time is taken between them. What would be cool is to have everyone now take this as homework, and go use these tips and then we post back our results with original and modified shots to show the difference.

Thanks again!

Jim



Jan 26, 2007 at 09:45 AM
Kathryn Farrar
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Excellent tutorial, Mahesh! Thank you for putting some time into this. As a landscape photographer who has never shot a city scene before, this is eye-opening for me, and it makes me want to try my hand at photographing my city, Chicago. When I do, I will be sure to give this technique a try.


Jan 26, 2007 at 10:05 AM
thapamd
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


I've thought about doing tutorials for a while now. This is the first of several to come. HDR and sharpening are on the list. As you can imagine, it does take a bit of time and energy to make these. I'll try to get one out per month. In the meantime, I like Jim's suggestion about "homework" and "show and tell."


Jan 26, 2007 at 10:22 AM
Jarvone
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Very helpful...well done. Thank you for the time and effort. Jarv


Jan 26, 2007 at 10:37 AM
yldan
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Mahesh, this is great. Thanks for taking the time. I agree with others... I vote for HDR next. In the meantime I'll try to produce some "homework".

Kathryn, FYI, a great spot for Chicago is from the Adler Planetarium. I'd love to hear some others about great city spots, but lets keep that to the city forum or PMs. (from the top of the hancock tower is great, but it's tough shooting through the glass).



Jan 26, 2007 at 10:38 AM
Patrick Wong
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Thanks for the tutorial Mahesh!!! I always created my images using Fred's digital ND tutorial in "normal" blend mode. Your method has a lot more control...I will need to experiment now!!!


Jan 26, 2007 at 12:44 PM
deadbolt
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


Bravo!


Jan 26, 2007 at 01:31 PM
eicu
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Sunset/Night Photography Tutorial


thanks for sharing... everyday I learn something new on this forum...
and like others say I'm looking forward to see more



Jan 26, 2007 at 02:15 PM
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