Post-Processing - Stacking
Regardless of what camera you're using, because we're dealing with longer exposures, you're going to get some fixed-pattern noise, some digital noise that is going to creep into your images. And because I'm shooting in a warm area right now, that digital noise can actually be exacerbated. And there is a really neat technique that you can use to eliminate a large chunk of that noise, and that's by stacking your images, taking a whole bunch of them out in the field, eight, 10, 12, 20 shots of the same scene, and then using third party software to stack those together. And that helps to eliminate all of the noise, or at least most of the noise, but still leave you with all of the detail that you want, your stars, your Milky Way, and your foreground intact. All right? So here's a shot from the other night with a Joshua tree in the foreground, and this is one of the raw images. Now for this, because I'm using third party software called Starry Landscape Stacker, rather than in Photoshop, I ...
had to export them as TIFFs. So I've already exported them as TIFFs, and now what I'm going to do is go into Starry Landscape Stacker and import those, and we'll see what happens there. So, I'll start that up. If you're a Windows-based user, you can use Sequator. It is a free piece of software that you can download. Starry Landscape Stacker is for the Mac, and it comes with a bit of a price tag, but in my book, it's worth every dime. All right, so it's gonna ask me to bring those photos in. Let's go find them. All right, so here's our Joshua tree shot. And I'm gonna bring in my TIFF files that I exported previously. So, select those. You can see the raw files are there, but I'm only working in TIFFs here, and so I have nine that I'm going to bring in here. Click Open. It's pulling them in. All right, here we go. And now the first thing you're gonna notice is that your picture has the measles. There are these red dots everywhere. Well, those red dots are the stars. The program automatically searches through your image and finds all of the stars. You'll also notice that... The stars have blurred. You can actually see faint star trails, because of course, during these nine separate exposures, the sky was moving, or we were moving underneath it. And so you're gonna see some blur here, but that's all gonna be gone later. Now, if there are other stars that the program has missed, like this one here, I can add them. So I'm gonna click there. I'm adding red dots to add more stars. There's one there in the clouds, all right? And I think we're pretty good. It does a pretty good job at finding the stars and if it doesn't find them all, it's not a big deal. All it's really trying to do is find where is the sky in this image. So, I click Find Sky here, it's masking for the sky now, and there we go. Now, all of that area that shows up in blue is what this program thinks is the sky. I'm gonna include the clouds, though, as well. And so, similar to what you would do in Photoshop, I'm gonna make this brush a little larger by using the right hand bracket. And I'm gonna paint in all of these other areas, but I do not wanna touch my foreground, because if you do, you're going to start getting blurry, weird things going on there. But it did a pretty reasonably good job around this Joshua tree, even sort of the finer branches. So I'm gonna go in here and I'm gonna paint this in. Try not to grab the tree. All right? Gonna do this side on the left of the Joshua tree. If I wanted to, I could get a little closer, but because there's no stars here, I don't think it's gonna make much difference. All right. And we can't see anything down below either. When I've masked that out, I go Align and Composite. All right? It's now taking all of those images, it's repositioning them with sort of the center image, probably the fourth or fifth one out of the group of nine, and then it's going to work its magic, and get rid of most of the digital noise, all right? And so, there we go. Now, at this scale, you may not be able to see a difference. So let's go zoom into actual pixels, and we will move this over, or stretch this out, so that I can see some of the sky. All right. And so I'd like you to notice, because we don't have the cloud of the Milky Way, there's a little bit of the Milky Way there, all right? So here it is at 100 percent, and that's the composite image. I'll pull this tab down, and I will choose number four or five, it's usually one of the ones in the middle, so I'll try number four. And notice the difference. All right? So you can see definitely some noise in there, with between that and the composite, it's not bad, but it's definitely cleaned it up a bit. And it's a great program for doing that if you do find you're shooting at higher ISOs and you need to clean up some noise, this program works wonders. Once I'm done with that, I can hit Save, right? Bring it in, I'll call it Starry Landscape Stacker Joshua Tree. All right, throw it in there. It's now saving that as a TIFF file, that image, of course, was just put in here, Lightroom doesn't recognize it, so now we have to import that, there we go, right here. And click Import. Right, so here is the image that we just exported out of Starry Landscape Stacker, and now I can go ahead and begin editing it in Lightroom. So I'm gonna go to the Develop tab. And again, similar to the one that we did a while ago, we definitely have some huge difference in light here. We've got the sky quite bright down on the horizon, and then everything else is much darker. So we're gonna bring up some exposure here first, just generally speaking, but I'm gonna have to work with that bank of clouds that you see there. In my mind, I'm actually ignoring those clouds at the moment. So I'm gonna bring this up, just over a stop here. All right? Gonna bring up some shadows, there we go, beginning to see some of the detail in this road, this path that was there. I'm actually seeing some detail in the bark of the Joshua tree. All right? And I normally don't like reducing the highlights, so I'm gonna leave them the way they are. Let's bring up some vibrance. Let's add some neat color to that. All right, and now we have to work with this middle area that is really quite blown out. And we go back to this radial filter, and underexpose some of that, and bring down the highlights. There we go, now I'm seeing the details in the clouds again, which is what I want. Decide whether I need to make this a little narrower. That looks pretty good. Now if I go down all the way down here, I can actually play with both the foreground and these clouds by bringing up the shadows just in the foreground. There you go. All right. But I'm not affecting the sky, because if I were bringing up the shadows without the radial filter, the sky would begin to lighten as well, and I don't want that. So now I'm beginning to see all of this nice detail in here, and you know, I'm getting the depth that I want. I'm liking it. So, I think for now, I'm happy with that. Again, I might tweak this a little bit. I am seeing kind of still a slightly blown out section of cloud there, more than I'd like, so bring down the highlights a bit more, or the whites. Yeah, I don't wanna lose too much of that, all right? So I'm gonna leave it like that. All right. And so, you know, we started with the import looking like this, right? And we've been able to bring in a lot of detail and control some of the overblown sections. Again, if I wanted to bring out the detail in the Milky Way, I might use the adjustment brush. We're seeing some of it here, and I can paint in a little bit of brightness to let this show up a bit more. You don't wanna overdo it, but it is kind of a cool tool that I find a lot of people don't use that often, is the adjustment brush. Right? And I could do the same with the foreground if I wanted the roadway to show up a little bit more. But overall, I'm pretty happy with that result. All right. So, there's a lot that you can do in post processing in Lightroom to make your astro-landscape images pop.