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I recently found myself to not have much time editing photos during the day (which I usually do), so I considered doing it during the night. However, I am not quite sure if it should be done. Here are my doubts:

  • I do have a nightmode/blue filter enabled from sunset to sunrise which reduces the amount of blue from my screen (this is because blue light can reduce the production of the "sleep hormone" melatonin). Of course, this completely messes around with the color as white is now some sort of yellow/orange. While it does look very strange when the nightmode turns on, after a while it looks normal and white again. So does a blue filter alter your perception of color (e.g. white balance) when editing?

  • There is another thing that might be a problem (regardless of whether one uses a blue filter or not): During the night, it is obviously dark, so you turn on artificial light. These often have a yellow tint, could this also influence color perception?

So: should one edit photos at night/in the dark?


(I hope that this is not too vague because it is technically two questions, but I think they are too closely linked to be asked seperately)

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While your eyes are quite good at adapting to color temperature changes, the image will look off on displays that are not using the same color shift you used when editing the image.

For this reason many photographers calibrate their displays for editing to set them to a shared neutral setting. This includes color temperature, color shifts and display brightness (most displays are set way too bright). They will also set the brightness to a relatively low level and disable nightshift or other tools.

As the surrounding light also influences your color perception, some even add shades to their screens and/or use daylight balanced light bulbs for ambient lighting.

This results in an image that will be displayed as intended on most uncalibrated displays - and more importantly, it will produce images that will look ok in printing.

What happens if your display settings are off?

In this case, the image will be skewed towards the opposite of your setting: On a very bright display, you will edit your image as too dark, as the darkness is countered by your display settings.

The same is true for nightshift mode: The display is very yellow which will lead you to adding tons of blue to you image. On a neutral display, it will appear as that - very, very blueish.

Can you edit at night?

So, yes you can edit images at night, but you should reduce external light and try to have daylight balanced lights in the room. Plus you definitely should not use nightshift or similar tools on a photo editing workstation.

Use a calibrated display if you have the chance.

To be on the safe side, review your images at daylight on the next morning. This is always a good thing - just to have a fresh final view. And with some distance from the last edit, you may even spot errors you have been become blind to during the editing process.

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Ideally, your editing environment should be the same regardless of the time of day. You should have control of the daylight entering the room (curtains) because that affects WB and relative screen brightness. The lighting should be provided by daylight bulbs at a fixed level. And the monitor should be calibrated in that environment (D65 or native recommended).

But that level of control/concern is really only relevant to editing for color critical print reproduction. When editing for the web there is so much that is outside of your control that it becomes almost pointless. Still, most professionals calibrate and attempt for consistency/correctness.

The biggest issue I think you will find by editing at night w/o environmental control is that your images will tend to be edited much darker/flatter than they would be during the day due to the significant increase in relative contrast (even if you reduce the screen brightness to compensate).

You can use editing tools to correct the things your eyes and the environment make troublesome; a simple levels adjustment (white point, black point, gamma) will tend to make the WB true and the exposure/DR appropriate... you just have to trust the tools and not your eyes. But then again, what is "true WB?" If a sunset is making the whites yellowish; do you want to "correct" that, or is it already correct/true?

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    Editing for color critical print reproduction should be done in a D50 environment, not D65. Please see: xritephoto.com/documents/literature/en/…
    – Michael C
    Jan 4 at 15:50
  • D50 is for viewing physical prints/artwork. The monitor should be calibrated to D65, and the illumination should match the calibration white point for the digital editing environment. xrite.com/pt-pt/service-support/… Jan 4 at 20:03
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    Your link was written in 2005. The same company published my link in 2013. Which is more up to date?
    – Michael C
    Jan 4 at 20:06
  • Your link was specific to their light booth product for viewing prints... my link was specific to calibration/digital and why it is different from lightbooth. Nothing has changed over the years... they still recommend D65. xrite.com/service-support/… Jan 4 at 20:33
  • The link I posted covered ambient lighting and monitor calibration as well as light booth conditions for viewing prints.
    – Michael C
    Jan 5 at 19:34

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