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Shoot your daytime shots into the night with these After Effects tips

Check out some techniques for day-to-night recording in After Effects!

This post was written by Sean Alami.

The legitimate question “Why shouldn’t I take photos at night?” mostly leads you to similar answers.

For one thing, you lose detail in your footage. And night shots can be long, difficult, and tedious.

Instead, consider shooting day after night or turning a daytime shot into a night in post-production! It’s very easy in After Effects. By doing it this way, you can explore the feeling of darkness and still pick out the wonderful items in full display.

Check out my how-to video below.

First of all, I recommend that you underexpose your shot a few stops. That is, of course, if your camera has a decent dynamic range.

It was a clear and bright day for me, so I made the shot a little darker with a cooler semblance of dark.

I then brightened the shot by giving it a daylight effect. This brought me back to a moderately similar look to the original day.


Recognition: Sean Alami

Next, I turned up the temperature and added a touch of saturation. This is how daylight comes back, but with a nice contrast that separates the sky from the surface.

To move in After Effectsbut before I even got into color grading I had to take one of the most important steps in replacing the sky. This has helped to increase the nighttime effect significantly.

Since it was a moving picture, I had to follow the camera. I then created a camera and placed my sky image as a 3D layer on the timeline. I pushed it back as far as possible and maximized the numbers to make sure it looked natural.

After getting it right in, I duplicated the main layer, turned off 3D tracking, and pulled in the color area effect. I then applied the color area effects and separated the sky.


Recognition: Sean Alami

Now for some magic! By turning on the sky and pasting it into the timeline, I masked and feathered the top of the sky to add that distant effect and make it look more appealing.

At this point I focused on adjusting the color by lowering the temperature and turning back the highlights. Once you dial back those highlights, you’ll see an exponential difference in the tone of the visual. It fuses pretty effectively, but with my picture the hair was a bit of a problem because it fanned out across the sky. However, by removing some of the opacity of the sky and darkening the entire image, it was relatively accurate.

The next step was to play around with the color range effect sliders to work out the most authentic look. After much deliberation, I decided on the best version I could identify.


Recognition: Sean Alami

One of the most important components to achieving this effect is making sure that your sky is as precise as possible. In my case, I had to replace my specific sky image several times to see which one worked best.

I made some color corrections based on my preferences. It’s up to you, but my advice is to evaluate based on your own style and tone. Just don’t use colors that don’t complement each other.

Finally, with the ink transition, I placed my day shift over my night shift. Then I let the day shift pull the luma mat over the ink layer. (By the way, I pulled the ink clip from stock footage into Envato. There are a lot of options out there. This is just the image I leaned towards.)

Lastly, I took the duplicate from the day layer to separate the talent from the background and then animated the opacity to blend the talent into the background from night to day.

And that’s it! It’s never as hard as you think.

In any case, I’m here to provide additional tips and suggestions that can help you navigate these tools.

Check out the video to learn more, and if you’d like to see other content like this, don’t forget to hit the subscribe button!

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