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Using LRGB Processing & Image Stacking To Render Gorgeous Night Sky Images

By Kishore Sawh on January 18th 2015

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Space, the planets, stars, and constellations, together make up one of the few things we can see with our eyes, and know with almost sure fire certainty that we will never get closer to in our lifetime. There may be endeavors on Earth where you as an individual may not be able to go, due to legalities, or health, or just not being in the right field, or right place at the right time, but no one on Earth currently is going anywhere near another star or planet. Maybe this is why it holds such intrigue, and our imaginations, and curiosity, and in turn, why we often point our cameras towards it – an effort to capture something we will never reach. But how do we do that? How do you create those incredible night sky images you’ve seen before? Ian Norman is the man to follow to show you how.

In 14 minutes, professional and prolific night sky photographer Ian Norman guides you through the most basic gear you’ll need, how to set it up, and then how to take your images which may not look like much, and combine them to create something worthy of a planetarium.

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One of the wonderful things about this tutorial is that Ian assures you that you likely have the gear you need to execute images like the examples, and give you camera and lens pairing advice based upon your camera sensor size. His set-up for the demonstration to capture Orion was a Sony a7s, Sony 55mm f/1.8, and Sirui T-025X tripod, but you needn’t have quite such pricey pieces of kit. He does suggest that you’re really looking for about a 50mm focal length and some prime lens faster than f/2, which is great since nifty fifties can be had for cheap.

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Once you have your gear, and your location, with your lens pointing in the right spot of the sky, Normal suggests taking a minimum of 32 exposures which will each be processed within Lightroom and Photoshop and combined. You’ll begin by loading the images into Lightroom and doing simple, yet effective adjustments, but it’s within Photoshop that the LRGB processing takes place, and takes your images into something more towards the look of the finished product. What’s really accomplished in this method is to bring out image data/detail, that you may have thought wasn’t there, but is extracted by tweaking luminosity.

[REWIND: [Focus Stacking and Blending in Adobe Bridge and Photoshop: A How To Guide]

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This is a great example of how to work between the two programs, and an even better introduction to night sky photography. You can see the full accompanying article to which the video is tied, here, and of course if this is right up your alley, Norman’s website, Lonely Speck, will be a source of inspiration and information.

About

Kishore is, among other things, the Editor-In-Chief at SLR Lounge. A photographer and writer based in Miami, he can often be found at dog parks, and airports in London and Toronto. He is also a tremendous fan of flossing and the happiest guy around when the company’s good.

12 Comments

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  1. Ian Clark

    This is an amazing video and fantastic tutorial. So good that I want to go out tonight and give it a go!

    I got to try this :)

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  2. Ralph Hightower

    Astrophotography is one thing I want to do, to photograph some of the deeper and dimmer images. I’ve photographed some planets and stars using a 28mm lens and B&W film (Kodak TMax 100 and BW400CN).

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  3. robert garfinkle

    Here is what just blows me away…

    That doing earth-based photography, using a measly camera, of our universe seems to land more impressive results than hubble – not in every respect mind you, but I was always under the impression that even earth-based telescopes had limitations due to the elements / atmosphere etc, and we sent telescopes into space to avoid atmosphere and other interference

    and this guy is doing it with a 50mm lens and a doable learning curve with your software – this is just the cat’s behind…

    and it appears that it’s all a function of one word. DATA!

    The images apparently have the “DATA” and the software massages it, right?

    I recently learned about this technique, I think from resources in this forum – or it led me there, where multiple images are taken, noise removed, images re-conditioned using some software, and there ya go…

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  4. Adam Sheridan

    Does anyone know what the difference was in the 32 photos. Was there changes made to the exposure?
    Thanks

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    • aaron febbo

      he said it was to help reduce the image noise and im guessing improve image clarity.

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    • Adam Sheridan

      Thanks. So obviously the more images you have the more chance of removing it using the multiple other images. Thanks

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  5. Brandon Dewey

    Great video, I’m going to try some of these techniques with my milk way images.

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  6. Dave Haynie

    Wow… great advice. I have been shooting the night sky, sometimes through a telescope, usually not, since I was a teenager. Nice to know there’s always more to learn.

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  7. Ashton Pal

    Thanks for posting this. I’m new to photographing the sky at night so this will be helpful.

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  8. David Hall

    Holy Cow… that’s a beautiful image. Quite a few steps in Photoshop. I had no idea it would be that detailed.

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    • aaron febbo

      Yeah i agree. Looks like it take almost an hour or more to edit the image. The end result was beautiful but i man that is a lot of steps just for one image !

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    • Hannu Siika-aho

      Yes, indeed. Even though I’m an experienced Photoshop user this looks a bit too much for one photo…

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