Night time photography may be technically daunting. Even with trendy cameras, it is not straightforward to seize high-quality night time images. Whereas photographing the celebs already requires excessive ISOs mixed with broad apertures, capturing particulars within the panorama is much more tough at nighttime. On this article, I stroll you thru my night time photography workflow, which mixes picture averaging with time mixing and focus stacking to attain high-quality outcomes.
I’ve at all times been fascinated by the night time images of different panorama photographers, but I waited a few years earlier than I obtained into astrophotography myself. I dabbled in it through the years however was by no means glad with the outcomes. Once I visited the Erg Chigaga in Morocco in 2019, I made a decision to present it a extra critical effort.
Again then, I captured the primary night time picture, with which I am completely happy. I used a Canon 5DS R with a Canon EF 16-35 f/4 lens to seize it. It is not an excellent night time photography pair. However with particular methods, I used to be in a position to circumvent its technical limitations.
For a very long time, I believed the one approach to get noise-free images of the night time sky was to make use of a star tracker. Though these gadgets have reduced in size and lighter through the years, I might by no means justify bringing one onto my photography travels for the few night time images I take.
Here is the nice factor: it is potential to attain outcomes that rival the picture high quality of the images captured utilizing such a tool with a method known as picture averaging. As a substitute of getting a star tracker comply with the motion of the celebs to maintain them from trailing throughout a protracted publicity at low ISO, you’ll be able to take a number of medium exposures at excessive ISO and use software program to align and mix the photographs based mostly on the celebs later. The ensuing picture may have a blurry foreground, however the stars might be sharp with out a lot noise within the sky.
You will get such a end result by making use of the next settings:
Calculate the utmost publicity time you should use to get stars with out trailing with the so-called NPF system. If you wish to print your night time images, neglect the often-mentioned 500 rule. You will not be proud of the outcomes except you view your pictures from a distance. You should use PhotoPills to search out the proper publicity occasions for various focal lengths. For instance, abiding by the NPF rule provides me a most publicity time of seven.3 seconds at 15mm.
Such comparatively quick publicity occasions in comparison with the five hundred rule require as broad of an aperture as potential to let sufficient gentle onto the sensor. My RF lens is proscribed to f/2.8, which is nice however not ideally suited. If you wish to get critical about night time photography, take into account buying a set lens with a wider aperture. However as you’ll be able to see within the desert picture above, even with f/4, you will get nice outcomes in case you use picture averaging.
For those who use a f/2.8 lens as I do and your calculated publicity occasions are within the realm of 10 seconds or much less, you will have to make use of ISOs between 3,200 and 6,400 to seize good element within the night time sky.
Even trendy cameras provides you with a loud picture at such ISOs. To unravel this downside, take between 20 and 40 images with the identical settings. Use a cable launch and the burst mode of your digital camera for this. With the cable launch, you’ll be able to lock within the shutter button, and the digital camera will take images till you launch it.
For this to work, you must deactivate lengthy publicity noise discount. It might create too massive of a spot between the person exposures. To nonetheless get its advantages, finish the sequence by capturing a darkish body with the lens cap connected. You possibly can apply this darkish body to all pictures to take away scorching pixels, as I present within the video beneath.
Now, you could be questioning what to do with all these images? On Home windows, the free software program Sequator can deal with the picture averaging and even take into account the darkish body. For the Mac, I could not discover a free software program resolution, however based mostly on the critiques, an excellent possibility appears to be Starry Panorama Stacker. I have never examined it myself, so if you understand a greater different, be at liberty to share it within the feedback.
To present you an thought of what such software program can do, I now present you a 100% crop of the picture above. You possibly can see what averaging 40 pictures taken at ISO 6,400 appears to be like like.
Though it will be rather more practical to maintain the foreground black in an evening picture, I like to indicate a minimum of refined particulars. To attain this, I might use picture averaging once more, this time for the foreground. Another is exposures of many minutes, taken at medium ISOs. Within the instance above, I had a rising moon within the east, which lit up the foreground. However usually, I seize my night time images when there isn’t any moon within the sky to get much more stars to indicate within the last picture. Then, even taking exposures of 10 minutes or extra is not going to give me the element I need.
That is why I like to recommend the next workflow at any time when the constellations permit it:
Seize the star images throughout astronomical twilight within the morning or within the night. It is darkish sufficient for a lot of stars to be seen.
Take the foreground images throughout blue hour.
Between the 2 units, preserve the digital camera in place. I take advantage of this time both for a fast nap or to hearken to a podcast.
Mix the blue hour images with these of the night time sky in Photoshop. Relying on the scene, it may be difficult, however with some follow, it is potential to always obtain nice outcomes.
Here is one tip for the processing: do not go overboard with the mix. It is good follow to darken the foreground images considerably earlier than the mixing to create a picture that also seems like night time. Related restraint needs to be utilized whereas engaged on the star pictures to permit for a pure mix.
More often than not, focus stacking can be a part of my night time photography workflow. Whenever you seize the foreground images throughout blue hour, it is easy to take a number of pictures centered on completely different factors between close to foreground and infinity. The publicity occasions often do not exceed 30 seconds, and capturing all of the required images takes a fraction of the time of a single picture taken at night time.
Planning and Scouting
The above workflow offers with the technicalities of the shoot. However planning and scouting are additionally concerned. Within the function video, I present how I take advantage of the apps Planit Professional and PhotoPills for it.