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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos RAW, Post Processing & Printing 
Thread started 15 Jul 2013 (Monday) 16:39
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Guide to processing the Milky Way

 
NCHANT
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Jul 15, 2013 16:39 |  #1

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 (external link)) 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.

The shoot:

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 (external link)) 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.

The gear:

Canon 600D or Canon 6D
EF-S 10-22mm lens
Tripod
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 ☺

The shot:

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!

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7353/9289816779_7556622b10_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/mikeymack/92898​16779/  (external link)
Milky Way original from camera (external link) by Mikey Mack (external link), on Flickr

Lightroom edits:

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: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7379/9289753441_1be57565be_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/mikeymack/92897​53441/  (external link)
Lightroom Settings (external link) by Mikey Mack (external link), on Flickr

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5502/9292576942_033139b324_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/mikeymack/92925​76942/  (external link)
Milky Way Lightroom edit (external link) by Mikey Mack (external link), 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.

Photoshop edits:

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: http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3743/9289753207_7b693e16f6_c.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/mikeymack/92897​53207/  (external link)
Photoshop Settings (external link) by Mikey Mack (external link), on Flickr

This is what the file looks like before and after.

IMAGE: http://farm3.staticflickr.com/2810/9292546540_947e1a1122_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/mikeymack/92925​46540/  (external link)
Milky Way comparison (external link) by Mikey Mack (external link), on Flickr

Final result:

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7397/9292562592_c5e88d43f6_b.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://www.flickr.com/​photos/mikeymack/92925​62592/  (external link)
Milky Way final (external link) by Mikey Mack (external link), 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!

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tonylong
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Jul 15, 2013 17:02 |  #2

Nice work!!


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leptians
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Jul 16, 2013 00:15 |  #3

great article, thanks!


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Gutterscum
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Jul 16, 2013 02:36 |  #4

Superb work kiwi.


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ivanatora
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Jul 16, 2013 02:56 |  #5

Good job!

Is 16mm enough for MW? Is not 10mm better? (You could get aperture up to a stop and expose even longer with no trails)


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NCHANT
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Jul 16, 2013 03:04 |  #6

tonylong wrote in post #16123089 (external link)
Nice work!!

leptians wrote in post #16124077 (external link)
great article, thanks!

Gutterscum wrote in post #16124267 (external link)
Superb work kiwi.

Thanks yous :) I will update this thread as I learn more tricks as well.

ivanatora wrote in post #16124284 (external link)
Good job!

Is 16mm enough for MW? Is not 10mm better? (You could get aperture up to a stop and expose even longer with no trails)

16mm is the widest my 10-22mm will go without vignetting, and remember it is an EF-S lens so really shouldn't be used on a FF camera, but it's all I have and performs pretty damn well. At 10-12mm on this lens, the rear element protrudes out the back and will hit the mirror, so not advised to go that wide :)


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hollis_f
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Jul 16, 2013 03:53 |  #7

Great article.

Now all I need to do is move to the Southern Hemisphere where they have all the cool stuff.


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ivanatora
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Jul 16, 2013 06:32 |  #8

NCHANT wrote in post #16124294 (external link)
16mm is the widest my 10-22mm will go without vignetting, and remember it is an EF-S lens so really shouldn't be used on a FF camera

Ah, it makes sense. I thought you were using it on your 600D.


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alpine2306
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Jul 16, 2013 13:45 |  #9

Very nice work.




  
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llareggub
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Jul 17, 2013 04:49 |  #10

Superb article and great pictures, so much so I was inspired to head out and give it a try. I still have a lot to learn but this is my first attempt, the picture is clickable and will take you to a couple more from my attempts last night :)

Thank you!

IMAGE: http://bjonesphotography.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/IMG_6961-v2-wm.jpg
IMAGE LINK: http://bjonesphotograp​hy.co.uk/milky-way-photography/  (external link)

My Website :D (external link)

  
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NCHANT
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Jul 17, 2013 05:18 |  #11

llareggub wrote in post #16127518 (external link)
Superb article and great pictures, so much so I was inspired to head out and give it a try. I still have a lot to learn but this is my first attempt, the picture is clickable and will take you to a couple more from my attempts last night :)

Thank you!

QUOTED IMAGE
IMAGE LINK: http://bjonesphotograp​hy.co.uk/milky-way-photography/  (external link)

Thank you! I'm glad you found inspiration from here :)
Really liking your shots, for 1600 ISO your getting some great detail in the MW, and for the amount of light pollution!

My main problem is I get addictive to things too easily, and MW photos is one of them. As soon as there's a clear sky I'm out there trying to do it better than last time. What I did learn however, in shooting the MW, is improvements came pretty slow - due to a few things like not enough time, location not quite right etc, worse still you forget to charge the battery haha. But don't let things like that stop ya! There's nothing like being under the stars, with your wife if she can bare the cold (or mozzies...) :)


6D | 600D | A6000 | 10-22mm ƒ3.5-4.5 USM | 24-105mm ƒ4L USM | TM 35mm ƒ1.8 VC | 40mm ƒ2.8 STM | 50mm ƒ1.8 | 85mm ƒ1.8 | 135mm ƒ2L | 200mm ƒ2.8L II | 55-250 ƒ4.5-5.6 II | Sy 24mm ƒ1.4 | Sy XP 14mm ƒ2.4
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llareggub
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Jul 17, 2013 06:02 |  #12

NCHANT wrote in post #16127554 (external link)
Thank you! I'm glad you found inspiration from here :)
Really liking your shots, for 1600 ISO your getting some great detail in the MW, and for the amount of light pollution!

My main problem is I get addictive to things too easily, and MW photos is one of them. As soon as there's a clear sky I'm out there trying to do it better than last time. What I did learn however, in shooting the MW, is improvements came pretty slow - due to a few things like not enough time, location not quite right etc, worse still you forget to charge the battery haha. But don't let things like that stop ya! There's nothing like being under the stars, with your wife if she can bare the cold (or mozzies...) :)

Thank you, we live somewhere where I can get away from lights really easily but will practice close to home before anything too elaborate, there are some huge fishing lakes near by that are deep in the fields with only dirt tracks to them so looking forward to heading out there when I have my work flow refined!

Thanks for the tutorial, it's superb!


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IslandCrow
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Jul 17, 2013 13:13 |  #13

Awesome!! Thanks for putting this together. Definitely a great how-to and something I've really been meaning to do before I leave the mid-west U.S. where there are a lot of isolated areas and move back to the east coast where there are not.




  
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Oregun
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Jul 17, 2013 13:20 as a reply to  @ IslandCrow's post |  #14

Great! Now i will gove this a try. When weather in portland oregon permit. Lol


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j-mar
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Jul 17, 2013 16:37 |  #15

Really nice and well-written tutorial, thanks!

Question: when you say you can't replicate the brightness/contrast adjustment you do in PS in Lightroom, why is that? I have a very similar processing style and like to keep as much of my workflow within LR as possible, so I use the LR adjustment brushes and for that effect I would play with the Exposure and Contrast settings. Do you find a benefit to using the brightness/contrast adjustment layer in PS over using LR adjustment brush for that step in your processing?


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Guide to processing the Milky Way
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