Imagine this scenario. You get back home after a whole day at work or school. It’s already after dark. You missed the opportunity to take the daily photo when there was still daylight available.
Sounds familiar? I bet it does. While it’s good habit to take your daily photo in the morning there’s no way you’ll be able to keep it up for the whole year. So is there a way to fake the daylight? Yes. There is. And it’s easier than you think.
Examples of what you'll learn
I've been faking daylight for couple of weeks now and I think I got better at it. All photos below were taken using the very same technique and equipment described in this tutorial. And thy were all taken at night, in a completely dark room with only one lamp as a light source.
What you need
A light source
I’m using a Yongnuo 300 II LED lamp. It was made for video, but it works just as well as a source of continuous light for photography. You can even set the light temperature.
Why do I use continuous lighting instead of a strobe or flash? Well, it's much easier to control and set up the light while it's actually on. With strobe it's just guessing, even if it has modelling light on.
Don’t worry though, You won't have to spend $70 for a LED lamp. For this tutorial we’ll also use a regular floor lamp that you probably have in your living room. In this case I'll be using floor lamp from IKEA.
Light coming straight from the lamps will be harsh. You need to diffuse it somehow. The cheapest way is to get a big sheet of thin, white fabric. Go to the fabric store and they’ll help you choose the right one. Just tell them you need something to diffuse light nicely.
If you have a 3 in 1 or 5 in 1 reflector, take off the cover and the inside part should can also be used as a light diffuser.
Since the lamps are not that powerful, we’ll have to use longer exposure. It is doable while shooting handheld, but requires turning up the ISO and using wider aperture.
I prefer using tripod, because it also makes setting up the scene easier, since the frame is always the same. And last - if you're taking a photo by yourself, you'll need your hands for modifying the light, so let the self timer release the shutter.
Gobo goes for "go before" or "go between". It's a piece of anything, actually that goes between the light source and your scene and casts nice shadows on your object.
For this tutorial I'll be using pieces of cardboard with some stripes cut out. These imitate window blinds. It takes some time to cut out those stripes but it's definitely worth it.
This technique works only on static objects. It requires long exposure. You could probably set a higher ISO and try shooting handheld, but your image quality will obviously decrease.
Set the camera on the tripod, and frame the shot exactly how you want it. You'll then build the scene so everything fits nicely in the frame you set up.
Keep in mind I shoot in RAW to be able to fix the white balance later. If you're shooting in JPG, you'll have a limited editing options. The aperture is around 4.5-5.6 to keep more things in focus. The exposure time varies from 0.3s to 2s, depending on which lamp and aperture value I'm using.
Here's the result.
I edited the color balance and to "flatten" the lights and shadows a bit, I lowered the contrast, toned down the highlights. The final image looks like this.
Now use gobos
The result above looks nice. But there's still a way to make it look even more natural. Let's play with gobos and shadows they cast. Let's start with something simple. A plain piece of cardboard.
Let's make it even more interesting. How about we put some blinds between the light and the scene. And by blinds I mean that gobo we made earlier.
When using these gobos I remove the big white sheet. The light goes straight through the gobo and hits the object. No diffuser on the way.
Trying the floor lamp
I must admit, I wasn't sure if this would work with the regular floor lamp, but it did. Obviously it required changing the white balance and much longer exposure (regular lamp is much less powerful than the LED), but it worked.
Let's make it more interesting with some gobos. The technique is the same. I removed the diffuser. The light goes straight through the gobo.
And this is it. Now you know how it's done, and you must admit it's easier than you thought. Build different scenes, make different gobos. Get creative. It was a lot of fun for me and I hope it will be for you.
I'm looking forward to seeing your photos taken using this technique. If you use it, tag your photos with "fake-daylight" keyword, so I can track your photos down. Also, if you liked this tutorial, please share it with your friends.
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