All you need to make a day-to-night panorama is two shots; one taken before the sun goes down and one after. Create a day-to-night panorama If you want to put a creative spin on a city scene, try this day-to-night effect.
It’s not something you can create solely in camera, but the shooting is certainly more important than the editing; without applying good technique when capturing the images, you won’t be able to blend them in Photoshop or Elements later.
The technique works by shooting a series of pictures from full daylight to twilight, keeping the shooting positing and other camera settings consistent. How many pictures you take is up to you, but the technique can be done with just two shots, as long as the lighting is different enough between them. Next the pictures are aligned and blended in Photoshop.
It’s a great technique to try, especially when on holidays or travelling as it can brings something a little bit different to well-known scenes.
1/ Visualise the scene
Your day-to-night shot needs good composition to work. The transition from daytime into twilight needs to be gradual, and it’s also a good idea to feature lots of artificial lighting in the night part of the scene, which creates a more obvious contrast with the daylight areas. It’s also important to make sure that you can actually return to the scene, or wait on location without being disturbed. Something like a hotel balcony is therefore ideal. For this shot, I used a quiet dockside location, in easy reach of a restaurant that I could wait in between shots.
2/ Take the first shot
Once you’ve located a scene that you think will work, you can take the first of the pictures. Camera position needs to be consistent, so either set up on a tripod, or find something in the scene that you can balance the camera on, like a bench, or pillar (you’ll need to return to this exact same spot later). To make the images easy to blend in Photoshop, the depth-of-field, and the point of focus needs to be consistent. So, in aperture-priority mode (A or Av), set a medium to high f/number, such as f/8, f/11 or f/16, which will keep most of the scene sharp. Now focus on a part of the scene and remember that point. You can now take the first shot.
3/ Kill some time
Now you need to wait. But, if you’re leaving the scene, it can help to take a shot of the camera position and settings on your mobile – this may make it easier for you to align the camera later. If you can leave the camera unattended it’s much simpler, of course.
4/ Take the second shot
At twilight, return to your shooting position. It’s now time to make sure that the camera is in the same place, and that you’re using the same aperture setting and point of focus. Compose just the same as the first shot, but then pan the camera around slightly, shifting the view so it’ll be expanded in the final image. You should have about 50% overlap between each of the pictures for blending to work. As it will now be darker, the shutter speed will have fallen in comparison to the first shot. Here it was 60sec at f/8 ISO 200, and I used the self-timer drive mode to avoid any camera shake in the image.
5/ Photomerge the images
Load both of the images into Photoshop, then go to File>Automate>Photomerge. Choose the Auto option, click Add Open Files, then untick Blend Images Together (this will be done manually). Tick Geometric Distortion Correction, and click OK to start the process. Once completed, the images will be aligned and ready for blending.
6/ Blend day and night exposures
Now, in the Layers palette (Window>Layers), click on the top layer to make sure it’s highlighted, and pick the Eraser tool (E). Set the Eraser to 100% Opacity, and 0% Hardness so that it has a soft edge, Now run it over the join between the two pictures. Next, to improve the join, reduce the Opacity to 20% and erase a little more, creating a more graduated look. Finally, pick the Crop tool (C), and drag it out over the image, making sure that any rough edges are outside the box. Click the tick to make the crop, then go to Layer > Flatten Image, and save your completed image.
Want to take it further?
Although this technique works perfectly with just two pictures, you can create a wider panorama, and feature more stages of the day and night transition, simply by taking more pictures. All it takes is a bit more planning and patience. And if you want more control when blending the different times of day, try using Layer Masks instead of the Eraser tool.. digitalrev.com