Astrophotography Video Tutorial
In my first ever astrophotography video tutorial, I take a crack at the Rosette Nebula using data collected in February 2014. I have plans of shooting a video about light frame acquisition in the future, but this one is about what happens after you have already captured your data. This astrophotography video tutorial may be useful to anyone who has questions about the stacking process, and processing the created .TIF file in Adobe Photoshop.
I must admit, I learned a lot about how I could improve upon these videos in future during the process. Putting together an online tutorial video using a particular piece of software is harder than it looks! Nevertheless, I believe new astro-imagers will find some useful information in my video.
My astrophotography processing techniques
In the video, I discuss the importance of organizing and inspecting your raw image files before you dive-in to Deep Sky Stacker. The application I find most useful for this stage is Adobe Bridge. I subscribe to the Adobe Creative Suite that includes all of the Adobe applications, so using Bridge as my default image viewer was a no-brainer. I know that Adobe Lightroom is another popular choice for this purpose as well. Alternative methods for viewing RAW image files on your PC are Faststone Image Viewer, Canon EOS Utilities and installing the proper codec on your particular version of Windows to preview the files. I have used Faststone Image Viewer and Canon EOS Utilities, but I have not tried the Windows Codec option.
Using Deep Sky Stacker, I register and stack over 2 hours worth of 3.5 minute light frames I captured of the Rosette Nebula with my Canon Xsi and ED80 Telescope. As always, dark frames are subtracted from the final image to produce a final image with a higher signal-to-noise ratio. I then locate and open the 32 bit Autosave.tif file into Adobe Photoshop CC for further processing using helpful astrophotography plugins including Gradient Xterminator and the Astronomy Tools Action Set. The order of the actions I make when processing an astrophoto from the RAW image files to the final result are as follows:
- Stack and register light and dark frames in DSS
- Open Autosave.tif file in Adobe Photoshop
- Slight Image Crop to remove stacking artifacts
- Removal of gradient and vignetting via Gradient Xterminator
- Levels Adjustment
- Convert to 16-bit/channel image
- Curves Adjustment
- Astronomy Tools Action > Local Contrast Enhancement
- Astronomy Tools Action > Enhance DSO and Reduce Stars
- Astronomy Tools Action > Increase Star Colour
- Astronomy Tools Action > Make Stars Smaller
- Balance neutral background sky colour
- Increase Saturation
- Final Curves Tweaks
The Learning Curve
Up until this point, I’ve been the student, not the teacher. I want to show beginners how I process my astrophotography images, but my presentation skills leave much to be desired. I have always been an artist at heart, so my methods may seem unorganized and random to the general public. I am more likely to “trust my eyes” rather than a set of numbers and graphs, although I recognize their value. I feel that through the process of teaching others how to capture and edit photographs of the night sky, I will gain a deeper appreciation and knowledge of the hobby for myself. Thank you to everyone who has subscribed to my YouTube channel so far. I am just getting started.