Editing nightshots

Very short flow of 4-6 easy to do steps for editing a night photo full of stars.

  1. Very important fist step: take the shot.

    This settings might help: 30″, f3.5, ISO 800, Long exposure noise reduction applied in camera.
    You’ve got to let as much light in as possible, without too much noise and without (too much) star drift. So, aperture is as wide as possible – ok, maybe closed down a bit to correct some issues of the lens, but otherwise go for wide aperture. ISO is at 800 as the scene was pretty bright and noise level is still acceptably low (or you could stack multiple lower iso exposures for stars to increase signal to noise ratio). When exposing at 30 seconds the star drift is not noticeable at this focal length (the trails will increase proportional with the focal length and the angle from Polaris).


    As you can see the image is already quite bright as there is a lot of light from a bright moon and in the background the sky is lighted up by lights of a nearby city.

  2. The pic ain’t that great out of the camera. No Milky Way in the sky, no super nice subject to catch your eye on the ground, but some adjustments in LR might make it a bit palatable.

    First I wanted to make the stars a bit more visible against the night sky. Added a gradient over the sky with Contrast +29, highlights -9, Clarity +100, Sharpness +100, Noise reduction +47 (mostly for getting the stars look ok) and
    Applied Tint +26, Saturation +100 (for adjusting the sky color).step2


  3. The whole grass/trees area looked kinda flat so I’ve added some details there. Used a brush with Temp +12, Tint +40 (there’s nothing wrong applying ridiculous values here on a poorly calibrated monitor, you’ll just claim it’s art) Exposure +0.85, Contrast +39, Clarity +100, Saturation +25, Sharpness +100. Used an exaggerated amount of ‘clarity’ here as the local/micro contrast adjustment it is doing helped adding details on grass.



  4. And some more of the same treatment (brush, Shadows +98, Clarity +72, Sharpness +100) on the far grass and center trees.



  5. Dimmed a bit the bright light from the house in the background:



  6. Some small adjustments for the overall image: Temp changed to 4895 to give it a warmer look, shadows -7 and saturation +19.



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