Editing the Milky Way. - the photos here are all full res so you can inspect them closer if need be.
There are many tutorials available out there, but I am getting asked on a daily basis on how I process my shots, so this is what I do ☺
First of all a bit of information about me, I have only been shooting for 15 months now, and always wondered how people got such amazing shots of the Milky Way. In fact it was August 2012 when I managed to get my first ever shot of the MW (http://www.flickr.com …/in/set-72157632591984772) I’m lucky enough to live in New Zealand where we have some pretty clear skies, all year round – weather permitting of course.
This is just a small tut on how I shoot the Milky Way, and how I process it.
For the processing you will need to know a bit about adjustment layers and masks as I will not delve into this area, just the adjustments used.
I don’t usually plan a shoot as you can’t plan clear skies. If I know it’s going to be a clear night, I will use 2 iPad/iPhone apps to help plan, usually in the afternoon. GoSkyWatch is an amazing star/planetary app where you can just point your device in any direction, and see what’s there. From here I can see that the MW will rise from the East, at around 9pm I will see the brightest point.
Windguru (www.windguru.cz) is an awesome app/site that will tell you if the skies will be clear, up to a week in advance. I have found this site to be pretty accurate – and great if you are into fishing.
I usually travel 30-40 minutes north of Auckland to find a location where I will have minimal light pollution, something interesting in the foreground and easy to get to. And more importantly, not spend hours away from the wife . Use google street view to help on this one.
For this tut I was fortunate enough to be in a location a few hours from the nearest city, so results WILL vary.
Canon 600D or Canon 6D
EF-S 10-22mm lens
Remote shutter release (EOS app for iPad/iPhone)
The 600D is awesome for this, the articulating screen allows you to aim strait up and still see the composition. However, the noise above 6400 isn’t so great. This is why I got the 6D over 5DIII, I can view the shot/comp wirelessly from my iPad, without having to move the camera. The noise from the 6D is just a pleasant extra ☺
This is the shot I will be working with, here is is downloaded straight from camera the – NO adjustments.
20 second exposure – 16mm focal length, 20-25 seconds I get no trailing, 30 seconds will be a little bit of trailing.
ƒ/4.5 – because that is the widest the 10-22mm lens will go
20,000 ISO – the 6D handles this ISO very well, but I usually work in 3200-12800 ISO range
Remember to focus to infinity and shoot RAW!
Milky Way original from camera by Mikey Mack, on Flickr
Open the raw file in lightroom (or similar?). These are my generic adjustments I have made into a preset, so I don’t need to fluff around too much in LR. Mainly to get the colour balance, reduce the noise etc. Nothing spectacular happens in this area.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeymack/9289753441/
Lightroom Settings by Mikey Mack, on Flickr
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeymack/9292576942/
Milky Way Lightroom edit by Mikey Mack, on Flickr
Fine tune these settings how you wish, now that I look at it I have slightly overcooked the noise reduction, but if I were to print this file you wouldn’t notice it, only pixel peepers :P
Export the jpeg or tiff.
I usually use jpegs, as my files aren’t going to be in any magazine anytime soon, and to save on hard drive space.
Open the file up in Photoshop – I use Photoshop CS6 or CC as I use this on a daily basis for work. These adjustments will work in most versions of PS.
Here I only use 2 x adjustment layers;
Brightness/Contrast: I use PS for this as LR cannot reproduce this effect. Adjust this layer to your taste, but try not to blow out the highlights too much. I want the MW to stand out, and the sky to be darker.
Sometimes I will add 2 of these layers, and mask the MW only on one just for more pop, but this image didn’t need it.
Photo filter: Here I use a photo filter to adjust the colour balance. It’s easy to use, and unlike the Hue/Saturation adjustment, it will not clip the colours.
Masks: These are important, as the tree is in the shot, after the above adjustments the tree got a bit too dark, so I have erased this area using a soft brush on a mask. Then I group the layers to add a gradient mask on both layers, while not destroying the layer mask.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeymack/9289753207/
Photoshop Settings by Mikey Mack, on Flickr
This is what the file looks like before and after.
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeymack/9292546540/
Milky Way comparison by Mikey Mack, on Flickr
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeymack/9292562592/
Milky Way final by Mikey Mack, on Flickr
That’s pretty much it ☺ this edit only takes about 5-15 minutes, depending on how I want it and how much masking is needed.
If your MW image still isn’t quite how you like it after these steps, try a vibrance layer and mask the MW, this can help to an extent. Or drive an hour or two further away from a city
Thanks for popping by!