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How to Shoot Day for Night in Your DSLR Film

Need to do some tricky day for night shooting with your DSLR? Did you even wonder how Harry Potter looks so clear in the series' numerous night scenes, while your nocturnal sequences are reminiscent of The Blair Witch Project?

That’s because the boy wizard is not shot at night or even in the dark. Instead, the movie wizards behind the scenes use a technique called day for night. Not only does it provide a clear advantage to shooting in darkness, but it also ensures that the scene is less grainy, the tones are more balanced, and the focus more precise.

After setting the scene under well-lit conditions, it’s then filtered and underexposed to lend that nighttime feel.

To keep off the moors and stick to the road, make sure you take the following steps:

1

Determine your location.

Try to pick a place with even illumination and make sure to compose the shot in such a way that nothing gives away the fact that it’s not nighttime (streetlamps, bright sky, clocks).

2

Read the scene.

Using your DSLR in the full-manual mode, adjust focus and determine exposure. And make sure it’s on a tripod, please.

3

Make it blue.

Hollywood cinematographers have several tricks for this technique. The most common involves placing a blue gel over the lens. For your movie, you can use a blue filter too. But if you don’t have one, don’t worry. Just change your camera's White Balance setting to Tungsten. In the menu, look for White Balance and convert to Tungsten, or lower if you’re already inside.

4

Tweak the scene.

There’s one more key step. Go back into your exposure settings and underexpose the scene by one to three f-stops. You’ll be able to see how far to go by looking at your DSLR’s live view monitor.

5

Shoot your scene.

After you’re happy with the composition, color balance, and exposure, it’s time to press the Record button. When reviewing the footage, if you feel the exposure is still too bright, you can make an adjustment in Premiere Elements by going to Edit→Adjust→Brightness and Contrast and fine-tuning exposure to your liking.

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