Recreating moonlight is tricky! 🌚
The quality can be hard to emulate because the moon is a grey rock in the sky that is a bounced source - so you’d think it would be soft. But it’s also really far away which makes it a hard light. On screen you can play it either way but I tend to lean a little softer.
The color can also be tough to match because in reality the light is white, but it appears blue-ish to our eyes due to something called the Purkinje effect. It’s when our eyes shift toward the blue end of the spectrum in low light as part of dark adaptation. 👀
The truth is that moonlight comes in more than one shade on the blue-grey continuum and striking the balance of color and quality depends completely on the story you’re trying to tell. You can experiment with the white balance of your camera and lights to achieve the desired look.
Here are a couple of my favorite ways you can replicate moonlight:
🌚 Camera set to 5600K, light set to 6000K with 1/4 plus green gel. Creates a very natural and almost silvery moonlight effect. Green gel for a moon?? Yes. Try it.
🌚 Camera set to 4500K, light set to 5600K. Creates the pale navy blue moonlight seen in the image above.
There are dozens of other combinations of gels and camera settings to achieve a natural moonlight look. But this is an insta caption so you only get two. 😉
This shot was lit with a 600D and small soft box for the key. A 300X with leko lens bounced off the moon in the window for some glow, and an 8x8 overhead soft box had two Arri Skypanel S60s pushing through 1/2 grid for a very subtle ambient fill.
What are some of your favorite ways to make moonlight? Let me know in the comments!
AD Kevin Jackson
Producer Cameron Grimes
DMX Damond Buckless
Tyler Kaschke is a freelance gaffer with a grip truck based in Lafayette, Colorado serving Boulder, Denver, Golden, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs and the Rocky Mountain region at large.