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The Best Red Camera Day for Night Photography


The Challenge:

To film and light for a 360-degree focus in Photography that was set at night and had to be shot in the bright sunlight of the daytime!

I always cringe a little when a location owner says ‘We have this shoot that needs to be set at night, what you think about shooting Day for Night?’

My first thought is similar to when I get asked to shoot a commercial in ‘one single shot’ or ‘the suicide method’ as a friend of mine calls it – ‘oh bugger’!

I always think, why don’t we just Photography it at night..? I like lighting at night it gives you a chance to create something special…  However, Photography at night is not always practical especially when your scene takes place in the middle of the Arabian Desert.
On this occasion, the Day for Night approach was probably the right idea.

The project was to Photography x2 commercials for Abu Dhabi Education Council. The first theme was centered on an Arabic man and the second an Arabic lady.  They would be walking in the middle of the desert… yep, as the title suggests, at night surrounded by nothing other than sand dunes and stars!

The camera would make a 360 circle around the person as he/ she is walking and then settle in a locked-off position as they head off up a dune towards a pathway that in the post would later be made out of stars…. Essentially, the message is ‘follow your dreams and make your own pathway through education’. Ok, sounds a little cheesy, but a fair message to the youth and a fun project so now just how to do it..?

That’s exactly what I thought… Take a look at it first and then I will run you through how I did it.

Lighting a vast area of the desert can be an expensive and impractical thing to do. That’s why Eye Squad, the Photography company, sensibly wanted to keep the shoot to its simplest form and go for the day for the night approach.

As you can see the commercial takes a slight fantasy feel and with that approach, you can get away with a lot of creative freedom – which we like! Static clean plates were taken so Talent the artist could clean the sand if there were any unwanted footprints from previous takes, which I think he did have to do when the actress walked in the wrong direction…

Overall it was a cool Photography and I think the day for night method worked really well.  Although I’m not usually a big fan of this method, I would suggest it in a similar instance again as long as the production had the time and a decent post-budget to work with a talented artist.

From a Photography perspective, I wouldn’t have really done much differently (which is a change) apart from ensured the Grips got to set the track much earlier in the morning to avoid having to carry tracking boards and the dolly up the dunes in the sweltering heat…

Those guys are seriously tough!  Photography it at night would have been cool (literally), but a very big and expensive set up would have been needed to light the actress and the dunes to get a decent result.

The Director and Production Company were very happy and the Client loved it so I guess that’s the main thing in Photography.

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