Landscape Lighting Photography: The Day/Night & Before-and-After Shots

 The main goal of landscape lighting photography isto give the homeowner an experience of what landscape lighting can accomplish. Nightime photos do this somewhat effectively, but the presentation of two types of transformative photos can be even more effective:

  1.  Day/Night. This photo set shows a home and property during the day an then during the night
  2.  Before-and-After. This photo set shows nighttime photos before and after the installation of a professional landscape lighting system.


Tips and Techniques: Note: this is a little advanced and only needed if you want near-perfect results.

  • During the day, select a tripod position that will show a region of the home and property that will look good at night.
  • Use a bubble level to make sure that the camera is level.
  • Measure and make a note of the height of the bottom of the camera to the ground.
  • Set your frame using landmarks that you will remember later (e.g. top of the frame is touching the top of a certain tree, the left side of the frame touches the edge of  a certain bush, right side of the frame touches the edge of the wall). Make a note of these landmarks.
  • Mark the outside center of each tripod leg. Use a small square of colored tape (if on pavement) or a site flag if on turf.
  • Take the daytime photo. Note: this photo should be a high quality image - correctly exposed, choosing a time of day when the house looks good.
  • Return to the same location at the time of night when you can best capture the nighttime illuminated landscape.
  • Place the tripod in the same location (you might need a flashlight) and set the camera to the previously measured height.
  • Make sure the camera is level.
  • Looking through the viewfinder, set your frame to match the earlier shot as close as possible. You can play back the earlier shot and view on the digital preview screen. Note, however, that the preview screen may not display 100% of the image, so checking your notes and looking through the viewfinder may be more accurate. Some cameras allow you to preview current shots on the preview screen; if your camera is like this then you can just use your preview screen.
  • Take the nighttime shot, being sure to bracket your exposures (see article). You may want to start taking photos just after dusk, then again later (one or more times) when it becomes more dark.
  • After the shoot, label the images so you can recognize they are day/night versions (such as baker-property-8808-day1.tif and baker-property-8808-night1.tif).
  • Open both of the best day and night  images in photoshop. With the daylight image selected, place your mouse over the layer image (in the layer palette), click and hold-down then drag the image to the top of the nighttime image. This creates a new layer (day image) on the nighttime image.
  • Select the day image layer then (at the top of the layer palette) change opacity to 50%.  This makes that layer partially transparent.
  • In the Photoshop menu bar, select Edit/Transform/Scale. You'll notice that handles appear at the corners and sides of the image. You can grab these handle with your curser (hold down) and resize, move or rotate the daytime image to exactly match the nighttime image below. Use hard edges of the house or landscape features as reference points.
  • When the two images are lined up exactly, change the opacity back to 100%.
  • You can now save the daytime image (use 'save as' command) to whatever format you need.
  • Click the visibility icon (an eye) for the daytime layer in the layer palette. This hides the daytime layer. Now you can save the nighttime image.
  • Save the two-layered photoshop image as a photoshop file so you can go back and make edits later.

Notes on using the day and night images.

  • Ideally you will have an animated images (either an animated gif or flash movie) that you can display on your site. A flash movie can show the day-night transition continuouslyor be user-activated by a button.
  • If you cannot get someone to animate the image then they are best displayed side by side on a web page so they can be viewed together.


The same techniques as above apply with the exception that the before shot shows the old lighting scheme and the after shot shows the new one. Of course, it will be nearly impossible to get a good shot of the before scene since the lighting is most likely very poor. That's good since you want it to look bad Photos for this set will most likely show more contrast taken later into the night so make sure that you pick a frame that works later into the night (especially no large areas of unlit regions that will go black in the after shot).

It's good to have a selection of both day/night and before-and-after images.

Created on: 05/04/08