How to Edit Night Sky Photos in Photoshop

How to Edit Night Sky Photos in Photoshop

Many factors affect a good photograph of the sky. It's a beautiful celestial body, so you must properly capture it using the necessary equipment and then edit images in the best astrophotography software. Let's take a closer look at all the necessary steps to obtain amazing photos of the sky.

Human beings cannot resist the love of beauty. There are things that delight our ears, eyes, nose, fingers and mind. Beautiful pictures can lift the spirits, picture of human or animal, pictures of showcase or nature. Such paintings are easily expunged from memory, and even they don’t, then only an image remains in the memory. Inspiration, enjoyment and many other strong feelings are not experienced again from memory pictures. Our savior in this case is the camera, because of it we can see the full picture again and experience the same feelings, also you can still share with your friends and relatives, which was not nearby.

There are so many photographers and photos, that it is quite obvious that only the best ones are appreciated. There are a lot of types of photography, which can please us, it can be beautiful landscapes and scenery, pictures of dance, baby photos, sea, mountains, sky, every breathtaking things. Since childhood we think on such issues as: "What surrounds us?", "In what kind of world do we live?", "What that beautiful points in the sky?", "Why are they visible only at night? But anyway, we fall in love, and without realizing that we drag on them with all our strength. Such beautiful things cannot leave cold at any age and at any times.


But unfortunately, not everything is easily to convey in pictures. The pictures, which can be incredibly beautiful in our eyes will not look very nice on the photos. In this case, when you show someone a photo from which you are amazed, people may not understand your joy. And all these things happen because of the camera, which is not capable to convey everything identical, especially if you do not kno the right approach of this hard deal. But don't worry so much. If you are a beginner in this business, you can always rely on the experience of other people, people, who have years of experience. Incidentally, even experienced people sometimes look at the other people’s works to learn new things. It is no wonder that people say "The sky is limit". Grow, learn new things, and you are sure will get the dizzying success. In this article we will try to give you some tips that will be very useful to you.

Many factors affect a good photograph of the sky. It's a beautiful sight, you must properly capture it using the necessary equipment and proper proceeding of photos, for example photo color correction services have really great influence. Let's take a closer look at all the necessary steps to obtain amazing photos of the sky. Look at the amazing photo of Ben Canales

Photo Made by Ben Canales

The Necessary Things for Sky Photographing

  • First and foremost is a tripod. Optical exposure is long; it is impossible to make a good photo of the sky without a tripod. It is important to support the weight of a camera together with a lens for astrophotography without moving.
  • A camera should be with manual settings and it is desirable to shoot in Raw, because this format gives great possibilities for processing images. Just as well that the ISO can be put on 800-1600 without much damage to the image. You can easily learn how to edit milky way photos in Photoshop training on such photos.
  • Wide-angle and large-aperture lens for shooting static stars and large coverage area of the sky.
  • Remote control for displaying long excerpts.
  • A spare battery because it spent fast enough.

how to edit night sky photos in photoshop

General Equipment for Sky Photographing

In General, there are a lot of different photo technique. But we will say one of the possible variants.

  • Canon 7 d
  • Wide-angle and large-aperture lens Tokina 11-16 F/2.8
  • Programmable remote control
  • Tripod - Slik Sprint Pro II 3W CG

Taking pictures of the starry sky, you can with a half-professional camera, if it lets you do some things, such as: set the shutter speed in 30 sec or connect the console, screw the tripod, set higher ISO without brutal noise open wider aperture. Otherwise you will be severely limited capacity, and it is unlikely that you take good shoot.

how to edit night sky example

The Typical Mistakes

Some beginner photographers started trying to shoot a starry sky do terrible mistakes. Because they are sure that it is sufficient to make a long optical exposure in 30 sec. As a rule, all DSLR is much more suitable to give the remote to shoot with shutter speeds up to 30 sec.

So, for such exposures the diaphragm cannot be clamped, although it would be desirable to make all sharp. Light from stars in this case is not enough for them to normally manifests itself in the sky. On the contrary, it must be open to the Max! In my lens it is F2.8, some people buy more light-powerful lenses . But not only the diaphragm should be opened, preferably the  ISO should be put not less than 800-1600.

Some Variants, How You Can Shoot a Starry Sky

1. Shooting of static stars. The exposure time 10-40 sec. They look like points, as we see them in the normal eye.

2. Shot rotation of the sky (stars in the form of strips) or otherwise, tracks. Long exposure time from several minutes to several hours. Absolutely unreal pictures but look funny.

3. Shot of tracks, but in a different way. Make lots of photos of the same plot of the sky using static shooting stars technology with an interval in 1 sec, and then stick together in a special program in one photo. Visually it is similar to option 2, but more colorful and less noise. When shooting the tracks under option 3 and we get stuck together a final variant of picture, and the possibility of making a timelapse video.

Floating Along the Milky Way:

4. Timelapse. Making more photos of static stars, and then becomes a video. You can produce very beautiful videos like moving stars across the sky. Here it is a beautiful example.

A lot of mistakes can be fixed by processing, there is some information of how to enhance stars in Photoshop or Photoshop alternatives, but firstly let’s understand photography of static stars.

1. How to Photograph the Starry Sky, Especially Static Stars?

Exposure Time. Well, let’s talk about shooting as itself. As you have already understood, because the stars move, they remain as fixed points only to a certain shutter speed. And if it would be of greater value, they turn into strips. And in order to calculate the critical importance of exposure time there is a "600" rule.

You need to divide 600 in the focal length of your lens and we get maximum exposure,
in which the stars are still points. This formula is valid for a full frame camera, crop
factor 1:

  • 15 mm — 40 sec
  • 24 mm — 25 sec
  • 35 mm — 17 sec
  • 50 mm — 12 sec
  • 85 mm — 7 sec
  • 135 mm — 4 sec
  • 200 mm — 3 sec
  • 300 mm — 2 sec
  • 600 mm — 1 sec

The majority of photographers including me don’t use full-frame techniques. So, we need an amendment - divide 600 on your crop factor. For camera Canon it is 1.6:

  • 10 mm — 38 sec
  • 11 mm — 34 sec
  • 12 mm — 32 sec
  • 15 mm — 25 sec
  • 16 mm — 24 sec
  • 17 mm — 22 sec
  • 24 mm — 15 sec
  • 35 mm — 10 sec
  • 50 mm — 8 sec

It is obvious that the full-frame matrix and wide angle lenses have a greater margin according to the shutter. That is, shooting with the help of the 50 mm lens in the large matrix, you have only 8 seconds, and it's very little, stars will not be visible. Besides, this may not be enough lens’ look-up angle.

Photo Made by Tomas O’Bryan

According to our observations the exposure still can be increased 1.5 times. Yes, zooming on a computer stars will already look like dashes, but at small photos (for a blog to print 10 x 15) this may not be particularly visible.

Diaphragm. Diaphragm should be opened as widely as possible. If the lens opens at 1.6-1.8, then you will not be increased above critical exposure and do not ISO place above 800. The sharpness falls, but just deal with it.

Manual Focus. In the night you can forget about the automatic focus, so you'll need to use only the manual focus. Usually it is advised to put it in extreme position to infinity, because we are shooting stars. But I was faced with the fact that my lenses almost never do not screw the focus to infinity in the automatic mode. I have tested it, focusing on the Moon, the distant lights (this, by the way, are nice variants for automatic focus in the night). It remained quite a bit to the extreme position, I used it in the future too.

Focal Distance. Once again, the more focal length, the shorter should be the exposure, because stars become closer, and therefore to prevent tracks, you need to reduce the time of the shooting. In addition, you may have not enough look-up angle angle, it is not our aim to shoo only the sky. Yes, and the density of stars decreases when approaching.

Photo Made by Yuyung Yang

2. How to Photograph the Starry Sky, Sky Tracks

Exposure Time. From 10 minutes to several hours. The longer it is, the longer star lines are. You want the console to set these values and a good tripod so that it won’t be shook with the wind for such a long time. Please note that in such exposures there are very difficult to calculate the correct exposure.

Diaphragm. It is difficult to write specific values, because I don't know how you can calculate exposure, most likely only with your own experience. And there is always a risk that after half an hour of waiting, you get spotted shot. I look by eyes, for example — 11 mm lens is has 30 minutes exposure time, Aperture - 7.1, ISO - 400.

Photo Made by Brad Goldpaid

Focal Distance. In this case, you cannot say that it is better, when it is minimal, because it is not so important precious seconds of shutter speed, light is enough anyway, it is not about seconds but about minutes and hours. Therefore, if the composition of the frame is well to normal, rather than a wide angle lens, then it is even better, because you will have much less waiting for a good frame. But we need to understand that stars are closer and their tracks will become less round. Camera with the lens more than 50 mm you are unlikely to need.

Definition of Center of Rotation of the Stars. Because the stars in the sky rotates, the tracks represent the circles, which, of course gave their own Center. And, if you rank the composition of a frame in a certain way, it would be useful to know, where is the center. Therefore, in the northern hemisphere focus the lens on the Polar Star, and in the South at Sigma Octant. Revolving, for half an hour the star forms an arc in 7.5 degrees and the longer this arc is, the farther from the polar star or from Sigma Oktant is this star.


3. How to Photograph the Starry Sky? - Tracks in the Program

All the settings are installed exactly the same way as in the first paragraph when shooting static stars. We will not repeat. But actually you can use longer shutter speeds and when seen barely the moving the stars. It will be combined with program anyway. But in this case, as separate images they will not be very beautiful, and you won’t be able to use timelapse .

Soft for Combining Tracks. Certainly there are different programs similar to Photoshop, Startrails Version 1.1 is one of those, it is very simple and it is not difficult to understand. Upload files and make tracks. If they are too long, you can withdraw a part of photos out of processing.

4. How to Shoot Timelapse

Timelapse with stars is quite long process. And then, having made 99 frames, the sky is full of clouds and nothing shines there, bad, but it could happen. You always can try to make a timelapse in the morning, the sunset, people’s moving making video and then fasten it in Premier. But for shooting the sky you need camera, video camera will not be able to shoot with such a long shutter at night.

Photo made by Nicola Roemelt
Photo Made by Nicola Roemelt

In is video was used 99 frames (ISO1600, 11 mm, F2.8, 27 sec) with an interval in 1 second. Total time 46 minutes. This was enough for 4-7 seconds of video. If you do it slower, it will already be noticeable, as the image is interrupted.

Here is a calculation of how much photos will you need to make for 1-minute video with the rotation of the sky. The video contains 25 fps in 1 second of, and if it is, then it will be already 25 * 60 = 1500 FPS. We shoot each picture, for example, with 30 seconds shutter and the 1 sec interval between frames, and means for capturing 1500 FPS we have to spend 31 * 1500 = 46500 seconds or minutes or 775 ~ 1:00 pm.

Arrow of Time - Milky Way Time Lapse Collection:

Some Nuances When Shooting the Sky

1. If the moon in the sky is too bright, the stars will be faded in the blue sky. So you need to shoot until moonrise, or at that time and in that place, where the Moon is not visible, as well as in new moon. For example, you can’t see moon for 5 days in some places, and the sky was black-black. But actually, and lunar landscapes can be quite beautiful, moon shines very good, and everything have good light .

2. City lights similarly well exposed sky and starry sky, shooting stars inside the city is impossible at all, you really need to depart for tens of kilometers. And only if the city is visible from the long distance, it may be an interesting light.
It is necessary to consider that at night there are chances for the fogging of your front lens. Therefore, if it is wet outside, superlong shutter and shooting of the tracks are not always possible.

Photo made by Giles Rocholl
Photo Made by Giles Rocholl

3. Long shutters about a dozen minutes matrix is heated and photo has creepy noises. We can’t tell you about all DSLRs, because it actually will take our whole life, but the Canon 7d the problem of noises is very noticeable — lots of colored dots in the photo. But the noise reduction function can help us during long shutters, they somehow are subtracted from the image. There is only a moment, the noise reduction function works the same time as the shutter time was, and this mean that the duration of shooting of one frame is doubled, for example, instead of 30 minutes, an hour. The option of shooting tracks by combining pictures of specialized software is deprived of this shortcoming, the matrix does not have time to heat up.

4. Just enough to shoot the starry skies once. Next, you will want to make more interesting pictures, and they need the foreground objects. So there is the problem of choosing the place for shooting, normal field or forest look so-so, you need to experiment and include fantasy. We personally like mountains in this work, but people don't go there often, so there not so much frames of the sky with mountains in the foreground.


It also can be a human, but you will be very careful and make a good portrait retouch. But if your model turned his/her face to the stars, and the face is not seen use headshot retouching. To know more about night photography read Shooting at night – how to make alluring photography in the evening

The Question is - How to Make Stars Pop in Photoshop?

Some imperfect of shots can be fixed by postprocessing. There are a lot of photo post production services, that can safe your time and money, because they have pretty low photo editing prices. Image processing with the starry sky is brightening (pulling shadows), add contrast, correcting white balance (often a value for such images around 4900), binding noise removal and sharpening.

For a dreamy look you can add natural clouds by means of free Photoshop sky overlays. Just download the overlay and place it on the sky on your photo.

When shooting it was difficult to understand what actually turned out to be shot, unless you have a handy notebook with a large screen. The most important things that are worth doing is an interesting shot composition, proper framing, lack of imperfections, adequate exposure. The rest can be "pulled" from the RAW file with the help of processing. Even if the frame came out darker than it should be, then Lightroom will fix everything. But if the frame is not interesting, with bad framing, very dark or very noisy - there's nothing to do with it.


How to Edit Night Sky Photos in Photoshop

Especially how to edit milky way photos in Photoshop or how to enhance stars in Photoshop.

Do you want to know how to get Photoshop for free? Download Photoshop trial and start editing photos like professionals.

How to Post Process Milky Way Astrophotography in Adobe Lightroom:

Step 1. To do this, open your picture in Photoshop and create a new layer above the original image. This top layer should be painted black with the Paint Bucket Tool. Now you need to add noise. Do this by using filters, i.e. Filter-Noise-add noise. In the opened window noise parameters should be 120%, the Gaussian blur and choose monochrome.

Step 2. Next, to make our stars more natural, use Filter-Blur-Gaussian Blur. Radius of blurring is about 0.3 pixels.

Step 3. The next step will be the branch of the sky in the original photo from other objects. There are many ways to do it: working with masks, the Magnetic Lasso Tool, selecting by color, etc. The most important thing is the result helping you to enhance stars in Photoshop.

Step 4. Apply a layer mask or create a mask from the selected layer to overlay the generated noise on the sky in the original picture.

Step 5. When this is done, you need to give "stars" naturalness, then create an adjustment layer levels by holding the Tab button. When you hold the ALT button you can use the function use previous layer to create clipping mask.

How to Make a Night Sky with Lots of Stars in Photoshop:

Step 6. To make a stars natural on the histogram of noise levels move all the sliders to the right. In order not to lose the city lights change the layer's blending mode to ' screen '.

Step 7. Next, using the menu color "background color - saturation”, attach new star sky blue stain. The same manipulation is done with a layer of "levels" by holding ALT and tick. In the settings you can choose colorize saturation 10-20% and hue closer to blue, this definitely is a tip about how to make stars pop in Photoshop. Our starry sky is finished.

How to Edit Milky Way Photos in Lightroom

To process received frames let’s use Lightroom. You can use other programs at your discretion, the mechanism will work the same.

Step 1. Firstly I adjusting white balance, seeking more natural colors. Generally good value is approximately 3900 k.

Step 2. Next, I correct the exposure and add a little contrast. Increase local contrast by dragging the slider to the right Words. Do not use too large value for these parameters (more than 50 units), so the image does not look like overdone. You can slightly increase the saturation of colors (sliders Vibrance and Saturation).

Star and Milky Way Photography - How to Turn Your Boring Photos Awesome with Lightroom:

Step 3. Next, I edit the curve, slightly lift the lower left point to lighten the shadows. And make it slightly S-shaped to more emphasized contrast.

You can also use the local color correction separately for sections of the frame with objects on the Earth and in the sky. For example, to lighten a bit too dark ground, or add contrast colors in the sky, while retaining the color of terrestrial objects. It all depends on your taste. If you want to understand how to edit milky way photos in LightRoom qualitatively, don't overdo it to make your images did not look unnatural. If you are Lightroom fan, read Best Free Lightroom Presets 2017 – Choice of Fix The Photo

Enhance Stars in Photoshop

Or how to make stars pop in Photoshop.

Step 1. Create a new document any size. Press Ctrl + D to invert colors, i.e. restore them (black/white). Change the background color to black.

Step 2. Applying a filter under number 1. The path to the filter: Filter > Imitation > plastic wrap. To apply a filter to the number 2. The path to the filter: Filter > Distortion > Wave.

Step 3. Applying a filter under number 3. The path to the filter: Filter > Distortion > diffused glow. Changing the tone. Press Ctrl + U and use exactly the same tone settings.

Step 4. The penultimate step, viewing the resulting: our last step. Applying a filter under number 4. Add the effect of twisting path to the filter: Filter > Distortion > twisting.


Add the Glow of the Stars, to Do Your Best. Duplicate the layer with the big stars. Apply the Filter Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur (Filter-Blur-Gaussian Blur) with a radius of about 10 px and change the blend mode to Color Dodge Linear (linear Dodge). Press Ctrl + U and colorize glow stars (I set the Hue (hue) to 230). Repeat this step a few times to make Starlight more expressive, to enhance stars in Photoshop.

To conclude the forgoing, we can say that nor photographing the starry night, nor proceeding is easy. Ecpecially if you don’t know how to edit milky way photos in Photoshop or how to edit milky way photos in LightRoom. Of course, you need to learn this difficult work? Spending a lot of your time. But if you want to economize your time, you also can turn to different services, but don’t forget to check their before and after retouch works.

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