If you are intrigued by outer space, there is no pastime or profession more rewarding than astrophotography.
This style of photography allows you to capture stunning images of the stars and planets. However, astrophotography usually needs editing after you shoot the photos.
It is crucial to edit astrophotography because of imperfections from airglow, light pollution, and overall noise. To edit it, you should first use an image stacker to add depth to the pictures. After, you can use software like Photoshop to finish.
In this guide, we cover the foundations of astrophotography and the kind of camera you should use. We also discuss why and how to edit astrophotography so you can get the most out of your images.
So, let’s begin!
What Is Astrophotography?
Astrophotography is the act of taking images of objects in space. Whether you are using a simple camera or the Hubble Telescope, the concept is the same. These objects are often stars, the moon, and even other planets.
The first instance of astrophotography was in 1840 when John William Draper took an image of the moon. Since then, this type of photography has grown in popularity and is increasingly common today.
Astrophotographers usually use a camera, a stabilizing tripod, and often a telescope to magnify the images. It is common to use telescopic lenses and a separate telescope to capture very far away shots.
It is no longer the realm of professionals with expensive cameras. Even complete beginners can capture images of the night sky.
What Kind of Camera Is Best for Astrophotography?
When searching for the best camera for astrophotography, you need to consider the kind of camera and its features. We will explore each one in detail.
Mirrorless Vs. DSLR
Mirrorless and DSLR cameras are two of the most popular options for amateur and professional photographers alike.
Both are viable choices, but mirrorless cameras are usually better for the following reasons:
- Mirrorless cameras are generally smaller and less bulky than DSLRs. This makes them easier to transport and also means they are generally more stable.
- Mirrorless cameras have a shorter flange to sensor distance. This smaller distance reduces the back focus, which is advantageous when you are shooting with a telescope.
- They have greater compatibility with lenses. Mirrorless cameras allow you to use an adaptor to add and change your lenses. This is essential if you want to switch between different lengths of telescopic lenses.
- You can control some settings from the display screen. Astrophotography happens in the dark, so anything that makes your job easier is an advantage. Most mirrorless cameras have touch screens that allow you to adjust focus and other settings.
There are a few other features to look for in an astrophotography camera.
- Image sensor size: The larger the image sensor, the better. Full-frame or APS-C sensors need less exposure for capturing images and tend to have cleaner photos with fewer imperfections (noise).
- Megapixel size: You should choose a camera with the largest megapixels that you can. The bigger ones can capture more light, which is essential when shooting with the little light in the sky. They also tend to show less noise in their images.
- Light sensitivity: Cameras with a high dynamic range are more sensitive to light and can easily capture it. Otherwise, your photos may come out dark and miss the detail.
- Lenses: Professional astrophotographers use a variety of telescopic lenses when photographing space. It is better to choose a camera that is compatible with many kinds of lenses so you can change them easily.
- Manual settings: In astrophotography, you will need to adjust various settings, including exposure, focus, and white balance. Opt for a more complex camera that allows you to change everything you need.
- Remote shutter release: You want to avoid shaking or moving your camera when you photograph, especially if taking time-lapse images. Using a remote shutter release allows you to avoid touching the camera.
- Battery life: You may spend all night shooting, far from electricity and technology. Therefore, you should choose a camera with a long battery life.
- Ergonomic design: You may need to adjust settings when you have very low visibility. Therefore, cameras with well-placed controls can be a lifesaver.
Why Do I Need to Edit Astrophotography?
Taking the picture is only 50% of the work. The other 50% is post-processing and editing.
It is a must for astrophotographers to learn how to edit photos. It is sometimes a complex task and might take some time to learn, but it will help you immensely.
Here’s why it is crucial to edit your astrophotos.
Astrophotography comes with its fair share of difficulties. Suppose you want to start as an astrophotographer.
In that case, you’ll need to consider the light pollution problem when shooting pictures of the horizon. Light pollution is just one of the many challenges you’ll find as an astrophotographer.
What light pollution does is create difficulties with the white balance of the camera and the final picture. You might have a perfect shot with the perfect framing, but once you take the picture, you notice that the color is off and looks nothing like the spectacle in front of you. That’s when editing comes into play.
Another vital aspect to consider when doing astrophotography is the airglow in the atmosphere. It is a common phenomenon that lights up the sky with a soft and almost unperceivable green light.
It can make your pictures look unique, but it can also ruin the shot if you are not prepared.
Scientifically speaking, airglow is the product of excited atoms vibrating at 80km (50 miles_ per second. This is a product of the sun’s power and occurs after sunset, but it is more noticeable after sunny days.
Noise and Signal
Noise is everything you can see in an image that you don’t want there (unless you like noisy pictures, which some people do). In other words, noise is all the junk that interferes with the real colors, detail, and framing.
Signal, on the other hand, is what you want in the picture. It is beautiful colors and perfectly framed objects.
To summarize, you want a lot of signal and to reduce the noise as much as possible.
Some people prefer to work as much as possible in the field to avoid long hours of editing. Others prefer the opposite.
Both are valid options, but some people do both and work hard on editing to inject the image with their own style. If that’s what you like, then go for it.
Editing is a tool, just like the camera. To be a good photographer, you need to understand each device. You might not want to use it as much, but it is still necessary.
Best Astrophotography Editing Software
Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop are the most popular photo editing software. However, there are other programs you can use if you want to edit astrophotography.
Starry Landscape Stacker
One thing you’ll need to master in astrophotography is image stacking. The technique consists of stacking different shots of the same image taken with different lenses to provide a greater depth to the picture.
Starry Landscape Stacker is a simple tool that allows you to stack images. Image stacking is essential for astrophotography because it creates photos of the depth you’ll see in professional astrophotography.
Pixinsight is a specialized image processor focused on astrophotography. It offers versatile features that are always evolving, and it has the necessary tools to develop your astrophotography collection.
Pixinsight will help you with image stacking, processing RAW files, and editing the picture into the final product. However, the downside is that it is hard to learn if you are new to the field, and it can be a bit pricey.
Photoshop is all about image manipulation. You can change the colors, crop the picture, and use the software’s many tools to achieve the perfect shot. When it comes to astrophotography, Photoshop should be your main ally for finishing and reducing noise.
Contrary to Photoshop, Lightroom is more of an image processor and organizer. It is suitable for applying filters on many pictures at the same time. For astrophotography, it works mostly like Photoshop but gives you less creative control over the photo.
In conclusion, astrophotography is a beautiful and thrilling type of photography. It allows you to capture images of faraway places in full color.
However, you often need to edit the photos because of imperfections from light pollution, airglow, and general noise. Editing also allows you to express your personality and create the perfect image.
To edit astrophotography, you should first use an image stacker like Starry Landscape Stacker or Pixinsight. After, you can use editing software like Photoshop for different effects.
By choosing the correct camera and using appropriate settings, you can avoid some of the editing. However, it is almost always necessary if you want to get the best quality images. By putting in the extra time and effort, you can make beautiful photos to display and share.Back to Top