Photo Tips

Starry Starry Night

Continuing from my previous blog post, let’s talk about editing a star filled sky image. It actually begins in the field prior to and during capture.

When capturing the Milky Way or a starry sky, one should use the best quality camera and the fastest (lowest aperture) available lens available. Ideally a 14mm f/2.8 lens is the best choice.

Some of the camera settings to include besides the exposure setting is an appropriate white balance as the Milky Way white balance is around 4840 Kelvin. Also, the choice of shutter speed based on your camera is essential to reduce star movement as much as possible.

There is a “500 Rule” which the objective is to have the lowest shutter speed you can to avoid star trails. Take 500 and divide it by the focal length of your lens. For example, if you’re using a full frame camera 500 divided by 14mm is 35 seconds. If you’re using a crop sensor, that has to be factored in. For More specific details on the 500 Rule Click Here.

The next step is to see if your camera offers a noise-reduction option within the menu. What this option does is a noise reduction processing within camera which happens by the camera taking two images. One with the full star long exposure, and second one a black image to compare and find the noise. The camera then processes the image for a better result. The positive is that it does help, the downside is that takes time to process. Not helpful when trying to create a panoramic capture of the night sky.

Once home, bring the image into Lightroom and apply the lens adjustment, noise reduction, clarity and adjust for any white balance discrepancies. You may also use the Dehaze slider to bring out more detail in the stars.

Even with a 30 megapixel camera like I use, at ISO 3200 noise is quite evident and there are two software options that can help with reducing the noise. One is DFine by DXO Nik Collection. The next one is more recently released and offered in Topaz Studio as AI Clear.

But here is where you have to be careful. When reducing noise, you are also reducing detail in your stars. Compare the following image to the one in the beginning of the post which has had more noise reduction applied in Topaz AI Clear.

Now the biggest challenge is to find that dark sky. Good luck!

4 replies »

  1. Emily, I‘d like to link to your post from our Focus Group Camera Club Facebook page(s). You have such helpful information about sky photography. Our club is in Central VA, headquartered in Henrico/Richmond.

  2. Come to Texas. Big Bend country boasts the brightest (from stars) dark skies around. It’s also great for birding, camping, and hiking. If you’re like me, you’ll be in heaven!

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