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02-01-2010, 06:17 PM   #1
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how to create a moon-light style lighting effect indoors?

I'm trying to create a moody moon-light style lighting effect in an indoor shoot (darkened room).

I want to make it look like a moon-light night, but at the same time also want to show clear details in all the people in the room. Definitely not silhouette. I also want enough light to be able to use a reasonably fast shutter speed - something like 1/30 - without pushing the ISO beyond 1100.

I'm imagining something like movie "night" lighting that simulates night without sacrificing detail and providing enough light for the cameras to record the action.
Can anyone suggest a way to achieve such a lighting effect? Are there cheap ways to achieve it, without requiring a full studio setup?

Thanks for any information and/or example shots.

02-01-2010, 07:34 PM   #2
Damn Brit
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What about a powerful LED flashlight?
02-01-2010, 08:40 PM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by Damn Brit Quote
What about a powerful LED flashlight?
Good idea! I hadn't thought of that.

Is there any white balance tweaking or other post-production that you can recommend?
02-01-2010, 08:46 PM   #4
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I've never tried it. I think a lot will depend on how dark the rest of the frame is and what colour is there. Shoot RAW and you shouldn't have to worry about WB anyway

02-02-2010, 02:57 AM   #5
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Using one point light and underexposing should get you there.
02-02-2010, 07:52 AM   #6
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You might want to keep the color saturation very low, almost B & W. In very low light situations, the human eye is not very sensitive to color. At night, our vision is almost B & W, so if the colors are too vivid in your image, even if the exposure is dark, it won't look natural.
02-02-2010, 08:42 AM   #7
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What they do in the movies is use an HMI outside the window and use a blue filter over it.
Don't you notice how in TV or movies that when it it supposed to be night, the lighting is always blueish?
02-02-2010, 09:32 AM   #8
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Exactly, check the color of your LED before. They are often too warm, in which case a gel filter might be handy.

02-02-2010, 09:42 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by noblepa Quote
In very low light situations, the human eye is not very sensitive to color. At night, our vision is almost B & W, so if the colors are too vivid in your image, even if the exposure is dark, it won't look natural.
QuoteOriginally posted by GerryL Quote
What they do in the movies is use an HMI outside the window and use a blue filter over it.
Don't you notice how in TV or movies that when it it supposed to be night, the lighting is always blueish?

Putting these two posts together:

The reason the bluish cast makes intuitive sense, even if it's not backed up by reality (moonlight is demonstrably not blue) is that the human eye doesn't lose sensitivity to all colors equally as the light dims. Reds tend to be the first to go. This is known as the Purkinje effect. So moonlight is within a brightness range which is covered by the mesopic vision regime, where the eye is still sensitive to blues and greens but not so much reds. This leads to a perception of moonlit scenes as having a bluish cast, and explains why Hollywood can take advantage of that effect.

So, keeping the saturation low and reducing what little color remains to a slight bluish hue can help reflect the way the eye interprets moonlit scenes.

It's also important to get your light source as close to a distant point source as possible. If you're too close, or the emitting area too large, you'll end up with soft lighting and/or divergent rays. But the moon is the same size as the sun in the sky, so creates the same kind of hard shadows and parallel rays. I wouldn't hesitate to approximate this by an off-camera flash set for reduced exposure, placed high and as far away as practical.

Last edited by aerodave; 02-02-2010 at 09:48 AM.
02-02-2010, 12:01 PM   #10
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A simple photo flood lamp with a bright CFL and a blue sheet of acetate should work...
02-02-2010, 01:50 PM   #11
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Wow, thanks for all the good advice so far.

QuoteOriginally posted by aerodave Quote
Putting these two posts together:
It's also important to get your light source as close to a distant point source as possible. If you're too close, or the emitting area too large, you'll end up with soft lighting and/or divergent rays. But the moon is the same size as the sun in the sky, so creates the same kind of hard shadows and parallel rays. I wouldn't hesitate to approximate this by an off-camera flash set for reduced exposure, placed high and as far away as practical.
So, for example, I might use a Pentax AF360 flash (gelled to blue) off camera and as far away from the scene as possible. Maybe also zooming the flash to maximum focal length (as opposed to wide-angle mode)?
02-02-2010, 01:52 PM   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by jms698 Quote
Wow, thanks for all the good advice so far.



So, for example, I might use a Pentax AF360 flash (gelled to blue) off camera and as far away from the scene as possible. Maybe also zooming the flash to maximum focal length (as opposed to wide-angle mode)?
I think most people would equate a moon lit effect as a directional white light. That would be hard to achieve with a flash.
02-02-2010, 03:27 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by Damn Brit Quote
I think most people would equate a moon lit effect as a directional white light. That would be hard to achieve with a flash.
Can you please explain? How is light from a flash different from a flood lamp or LED flashlight?
02-02-2010, 03:38 PM   #14
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A flash can be pretty directional if it's sufficiently far away. As for zooming, I don't think it matters much, because the rays that fall on your target will be coming in at the same angles anyway. Zooming in does the have possibly desirable side effect of minimizing stray light to the sides that may bounce around and soften the shadows.

I'm not sure you need to gel the flash to blue. Unless you've got a *very* mild blue gel. But the correction would be so slight that you're probably better off with a slight white balance shift after partial desaturation. The blue gels I have, for instance, would make far too strong a color cast. Moonlight isn't blue...it's just "cool".
02-02-2010, 03:59 PM   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by jms698 Quote
Can you please explain? How is light from a flash different from a flood lamp or LED flashlight?
Fire your flash in a dark room and see how much of it is lit up. Then use a flashlight in the same room, I expect the illuminated area will be narrower and more defined.
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