There is more than one way moonlight appears in photos and videos. Sometimes it’s blue, sometimes it’s silver, and sometimes it’s just white. Nerris Nassiri from Aputure shows you four different ways to recreate moonlight in your shoots and how to keep it realistic.
1. Deep blue
The moon itself is dull and grey, but due to some atmosphere factors and the Purkinje effect, we sometimes think of the moon as blue.
In movies and photos, blue moonlight has a more somber, moody, sad or mysterious feel. So if one of these is the mood you want to create, you should go for the bluish light. This kind of moonlight can be recreated by adding a full CTB gel over your daylight-balanced light and changing your camera’s white balance to around 4000K. Remember though that the moon isn’t actually blue. Therefore, make sure not to make the light too saturated, because it will appear unnatural.
2. Silver look
If you want a more silvery, shiny, and romantic feel to your images and videos, this is the look you should go for.
To achieve this look, take a daylight-balanced light that’s a little bluer than daylight (with the color temperature of around 6000K). Then, place a 1/4 green gel over the light. It seems counterintuitive, but this mixing of blue and green will give you the silvery look and make the simulated moonlight look natural.
3. Natural look
This is the most neutral way to recreate moonlight. It’s very soft, so it’s also the most romantic look, which accentuates the story.
To recreate this look, take a daylight-balanced light and attach a softbox or an umbrella to it. Then place it outside and shine it through the window. Remember that moonlight and sunlight are technically the same color, so sometimes all you need is a 5500K light. The actual moonlight is very difficult to shape, so this lighting setup will give you more control.
If you want to get a bluer and moodier look, you can set the white balance to 4500K.
4. Gray look
This look is a kind of a mixture of the previous three and it’s great if you only have tungsten-balanced fixtures. The light is slightly, but not too blue, it’s subtle but still very dreamlike.
You can recreate this look by placing a full CTB gel over a tungsten-balanced light. Then, set your camera’s white balance to 3200K. You will basically create a white light, but retain the hardness of the light quality. By setting the white balance to 3200K, you’ll get a blueish light that’s not too unrealistic. You can also lower the saturation of your image to mimic the overall look of the nighttime.
These were the four ways to simulate moonlight. There’s no one perfect way to do it, and you can choose any of these looks, depending on the mood you want to achieve.