Learn How to Turn Day Into Night in Affinity Photo

by Feb 10, 2023Photo Editing Tutorials

Robin Whalley Landscape Photographer

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Learn How to Day Into Night in Affinity Photo

In a recent tutorial, I explained how to turn a daytime photo into a night-time scene using Adobe Lightroom. This caused a lot of people to ask, “can you do the same using Affinity Photo”. The answer is yes, but it’s a little more involved. So, in this tutorial, I’ll explain a two-step process to turn day into night using Affinity Photo. This involves first converting the image to look as though it was taken at night. We then use a two-step process to add realistic light back into the photo.

Affinity Photo Trial Software

If you don’t have the latest version of Affinity Photo you can download a trial from the Affinity Photo website.

Convert the Photo to Night in the Develop Persona

Start by opening the image you want to convert in the Affinity Photo Develop Persona. It’s best to start with a RAW file for this, as it will give you greater flexibility later. This separate tutorial may be helpful if you don’t understand the Affinity Photo Personas.

To make the photo look like it was taken at night, move the Exposure slider to the left. This will darken the entire image. What you’re aiming for, is to have the Histogram compressed into the far left of its range as shown below.

Darken the image with the Exposure slider to produce a night time effect

Notice how the image now looks like a night scene because of this simple change.

In addition to darkening the photo by reducing the exposure, it can help to reduce the Temperature and Tint settings in the White Balance. You will find the White Balance section in the Basic panel adjustments.

Now that we have converted our photo from day to night, we need to selectively add light back into the scene. We’ll do this using a two-step process, applying adjustments in the areas where we see lights.

Step 1: Adding Light to a Night Photo

To add light to the image, we need to first use the Overlay feature in the Affinity Photo Develop Persona. After that, there is a second step where we apply further adjustments in the Photo Persona.

You will find the Overlays tab to the right of the Basic tab in the Develop Persona. Then at the bottom of this panel you will see three icons. The middle icon is to add a gradient overlay.

Adding a new Gradient Overlay

When you click the icon to add a new Gradient Overlay, you will see it appear in the list of overlays in the panel.

Next you need to set the type of gradient to be used in the Context Sensitive Toolbar. This is found to the top left of the Affinity Photo interface. Here you will see a dropdown box for Type of gradient. You need to set this to be an Elliptical gradient as shown below.

Setting the Gradient Type in the Affinity Photo toolbar

Having done that, you can click on the photo at the point you want to add the gradient. Click and then continue to hold down your mouse button whilst dragging to draw the gradient. By default, the gradient will be circular. Then after releasing the mouse button, you can continue to resize and shape the gradient using the control arms that appear. You can see these controls indicated below.

Setting the size and shape of the eliptical gradient

To change the shape and size of the gradient, click on the circle at the end of a control arm using your mouse. Then whilst holding down the mouse button, move the arm left and right or up and down. You can also use the arm to rotate the gradient around its centre point by clicking and dragging.

Finally, you will find a small line in the centre of one of the control arms. You can click and drag this to change the level of feather for the gradient. You ideally want to create a soft, feathered edge to the gradient to produce a more natural lighting effect.

Adjusting the Gradient to Produce Light

Having created and resized the Elliptical Gradient, you can now add light to the scene by increasing the exposure. To do this, click on the Basic panel and then increase the Exposure slider. This will brighten the area selected by the elliptical gradient. You will probably also notice that the area looks blue because we adjusted the white balance of the image earlier. You can correct this blue hue by adjusting the White Balance controls for the gradient, found in the Basic panel.

Elliptical gradient with adjustments to look like light

Above, you can see the effect of the adjustments, making it look like the “Tattoo” neon sign is shining onto the front of the shop.

At this stage we are beginning to see the effect of turning day into night, but it’s not yet entirely convincing. To make the light appear more realistic, we need to use the tools found in the Photo Persona. But before we can do that, we need to check the Output setting in the Develop Persona.

Develop Persona Output Setting

The Output setting for the Develop Persona is found in the Context Sensitive toolbar at the top left of the interface. The setting is only visible when you have either the View or Zoom tool selected in the Tools Palette. You can see these, together with the Output setting, indicated in the screenshot below.

Output settings in the Affinity Photo Develop Persona

In the dropdown, set the Output for the Develop Persona to be “RAW Layer (Embedded)”. This will embed the RAW file data together with adjustments into the image layer. You will then be able to reopen the image and continue adjusting it later if required.

When you have the Output correctly set, click the Develop button to return to the Photo Persona for step 2 of the process.

Step 2: Photo Persona Adjustments

Once you have the image in the Photo Persona, you can add two adjustment layers to refine the light. The first layer will add realistic light whilst the second will adjust the colour.

Add an Exposure Adjustment Layer

To create the appearance of realistic light, we need to add an Exposure Adjustment Layer to the image. You can do this by clicking the Adjustments icon at the bottom of the layers studio panel and selecting the Exposure option from the list. The icon is indicated in the screenshot below.

Adding an Exposure adjustment layer

After adding the new Exposure layer, you will see the Exposure dialog appear. Move the Exposure slider to the right, causing the image to become lighter as you can see in the screenshot above.

Now we need to change the blend mode for the layer from “Normal” to “Hard Light”. You can change the blend mode using the dropdown at the top of the Layers Studio Panel. You should have the Exposure layer selected when you do this.

Change the Exposure Layer Blend Mode to Hard Light

This makes the image appear dreadful but don’t worry. To create a realistic effect, we just need to restrict where the Exposure adjustment affects the image.

Adding a Layer Mask

To add a new mask to the Exposure layer, first click the mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Studio Panel. Then in the popup menu select the “Empty Mask” option.

Adding an empty layer mask to the image

This adds a layer mask to the top of the image in the Layers Studio Panel. You should also notice that the mask is filled with black, hiding all the layers in the image. This makes the image vanish and replaces it with a chequered pattern to show the document is transparent. We therefore need to drag the mask into position and drop it onto the Exposure Adjustment Layer.

To do this, click the mask in the Layers Studio Panel with your mouse. Then whilst continuing to hold down the mouse button, drag it over the Exposure layer thumbnail. You will then see the Exposure layer thumbnail highlighted in blue as shown below.

Dragging the layer mask into position

When you see this, you can release the mouse button to drop the mask into position.

With the mask in position, you should see the image again and the Exposure adjustment will be hidden. Now we can paint onto the mask using white to reveal the effect of the Exposure layer.

Adding Warmth to the Light

The next step in the process is to add warmth to the light. We’ll do this by adding a White Balance Adjustment Layer. The process to do this is the same as for the Exposure layer.

Start by clicking on the Adjustments icon at the bottom of the Layers Studio Panel. Then in the list, choose the White Balance Adjustment. This displays the White Balance Adjustment dialog where you can set the White Balance slider. Move this to the right to warm the light across the entire image as shown below.

Adding warmth to the light in a night time scene

As with the Exposure, adding warmth to the light will also warm the rest of the image. We therefore need to add an empty mask to the image to restrict the effect to the area of light.

To do this, click the mask icon at the bottom of the Layers Studio Panel and choose the “Empty Mask” option. As before, this adds a mask filled with black to the top of the Layers Studio Panel, hiding the image. You can now click the mask and drag it into position, dropping it onto the White Balance layer and hiding its effect. Now you can paint in the effect on the area of the light by painting onto the mask using a soft white brush.

Finished effect adding light into a photo converted to a night scene

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Above you can see the completed effect on the light.

Now Watch the Video

The process of turning day into night using Affinity Photo can seem complicated but a lot of it is repetitive. When you break it down, you only need to remove the light from the photo. After that you are selectively adding light to create the impression of it being night.

To help you remember the entire process, I’ve created a short video which you can watch below.

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You can also watch this video on my YouTube channel. I publish a new video every week, often based on subscribers’ requests and feedback. Subscribe to my YouTube channel now and be sure not to miss future videos.

Having learned how to convert day into night using Affinity Photo, it’s well worth taking a moment to compare it to the process using Lightroom. And if you would like to know more about editing photography using Affinity Photo, see my books Essential Affinity Photo 2 and Affinity Photo How To.

More Affinity Photo Tutorials

You’ll find more high quality, free tutorials on my Affinity Photo Tutorials page.

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