Astrophotography Tutorials

These Astrophotography tutorials are designed to help you take your photography and image-processing skills to the next level. You will find tips for producing images like the ones in my photo gallery that were collected using a camera and telescope.

You’ll find powerful image acquisition techniques, best practices in the field, and advanced image processing techniques to continue pushing your progress forward.

Combined with the useful resources mentioned below, the astrophotography tutorials found on this website can help you effectively photograph deep-sky objects from your own backyard.

The tutorials covering Milky Way photography and wide-angle shots are there for amateur astrophotographers who prefer to capture impressive landscape night photography scenes.

astrophotography tutorials

Capturing images in the field is only one-half of the equation. The best telescope equipment will only get you so far, as a large portion of the astrophotography experience involves processing the pictures you take on your computer. 

If you would like to dig deeper into the image processing side of things, I suggest downloading my premium image processing guide. It includes over 100 pages of detailed instructions, and updates are free to download for life. 

It includes everything from recommended equipment to deep-sky data downloads you can practice your skills on. The guide is in PDF format and is best opened on your internet browser (Chrome, Safari, etc.).

image processing guide

If you are not interested in the guide, I offer many free image-processing tutorials on this website as well. New astrophotography tutorials are added to this website each month. 

For a better understanding of the image editing tools available, and how to choose the right one for you, please see choosing an image processing software for astrophotography.

Astrophotography Tutorials

The following astrophotography tutorials are the result of nearly 10 years of trial and error in the backyard. The topics include everything from capturing nightscape photos with a DSLR camera and lens, to advanced deep-sky astrophotography image processing using a CCD camera.

Be sure to visit the astrophotography resources section to see all of the recommended software I use for astrophotography. To help with the planning stages, you can check out these useful astronomy apps on your mobile phone that can improve your overall experience in the field.

astrophotography images

Image Acquisition

7 Astrophotography Tips You Can Try Tonight

The astrophotography tips and camera settings featured in this article apply whether you are shooting deep-sky objects in space with a DSLR camera and telescope, or with a simple camera lens on a tripod.

How to Polar Align Your Telescope Mount

Polar alignment is crucial for a sharp image.  In this tutorial, I discuss how to align your German equatorial telescope mount with the north celestial pole. A telescope mount that has been polar aligned allows you to take long-exposure images that are free of star-trailing.

Astro Photography Tool Walkthrough

In this video tutorial, I walk you through the process I use to capture images with Astro Photography Tool and PHD2 Guiding. It’s a rather rough outline of the software, as I only a few basic features on a regular basis.

How to take pictures of the Moon

In this tutorial, I share my camera settings and tips for moon photography. Whether you’re shooting a with a camera lens on a tripod or through a telescope, these helpful tips and tricks will help you capture the moon in all its glory.

How to Photograph the Milky Way

In this tutorial, I share my best tips for photographing the Milky Way with your DSLR camera and lens. Whether you’re using a beginner-level camera and tripod, or a star tracker and ultra-wide-angle lens, these camera settings, and processing tips will help you create your best image of our galaxy yet.

How to use a Bahtinov Mask for better focus

Achieving a sharp focus in an essential part of a successful imaging session. With the use of methods such as Live View and FWHM in BackyardEOS, we can consistently reach optimum focus on our astrophotography subjects.  In this tutorial, I discuss the use of a Bahtinov focus mask – that is designed to help you reach a sharp focus quickly and easily.

How to Polar Align using SharpCap

SharpCap Pro has a great feature that can improve the accuracy of your Polar Alignment. Using this function with your autoguiding camera can align the RA axis of your mount with the North Celestial Pole.

How to Take Flat Frames

Flat frames can make a world of difference to your astrophotography images. It only takes a few minutes to take a successful flat frame using the “white t-shirt method” with your DSLR camera.

How to Take Dark Frames

Dark frame subtraction is the process of isolating and reducing digital noise in your images. These calibration files are easy to capture, yet must be collected properly to be effective. This tutorial explains what dark frames do, and how to capture them with your camera.

How to Take Bias Frames

The main reason amateur astrophotographers take bias frames is to reduce noise in their images, more specifically the fixed-pattern noise. No matter what type of camera you are taking your images with, the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N) is often the primary deciding factor between a good image and a great one. 

5 Ways to improve your DSLR Astrophotography

If you have started to take deep-sky images with your DSLR, and you have questions about polar alignment, telescope balance or shooting dark frames, then the following guide can help you out.  I have also created a video on the subject that will highlight these key elements of capturing better images through your telescope.

Trevor Jones

Image Processing

Deep Sky Stacker Settings for Astrophotography

Stacking and registering your images is an important part of the astrophotography image processing stage. I’ll show you the Deep Sky Stacker settings I use to produce images with an improved signal-to-noise ratio.

Deep Sky Processing with Adobe Photoshop

Use DeepSkyStacker and Adobe Photoshop to turn your RAW image frames into a finished astrophoto. In this tutorial, I process the Lagoon Nebula using Adobe Photoshop actions from the Astronomy Tools Action Set.

How to Use the Select and Mask Tool

The Select and Mask Tool in Photoshop CC is a powerful way to edit selective areas of your astrophotography images. Whether you want to separate the stars from your deep-sky target, or apply subtle noise reduction to the background sky of your image, the select and mask feature will get you there.

Star Removal in Photoshop

Removing the stars from your astrophotography images can be useful for isolating areas containing nebulae.  Use this image processing tip to pull out the details of your deep-sky object without blowing out the stars in the image.

How to Use StarNet++

StarNet++ is a fantastic free program that allows you to completely remove the stars in your astrophotos. This tool can complement your existing workflow in Adobe Photoshop. Here’s how:

How to Align Your Astrophotos in Photoshop

The process of scaling, rotating, and aligning astrophotography images is a technique you will use time and time again. This tutorial explains the importance of retaining image scale and resolution so that you can continue to improve your images by combining new data.

How to Manually Stack Exposures in Photoshop

This technique is great for improving short exposure landscape astrophotography images without a tracking mount.  By manually aligning and stacking multiple exposures in Photoshop, you can reduce noise and improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

How to Create a HaRGB Composite Image in Adobe Photoshop

Since I started adding H-Alpha to my astrophotography images, a lot of amateur astrophotographers have asked me how to combine the Ha exposures with the regular color (RGB) photos. This tutorial shows you how I process each image and blend them together to create a HaRGB composite in Photoshop.

Andromeda Galaxy Image Processing Tutorial

In this tutorial, I’ll show you how to use DeepSkyStacker and Adobe Photoshop to produce an unforgettable image of the Andromeda Galaxy. The image was created using color images from a Canon 60Da DSLR camera and a small telescope. 

Selective Color Boosting (Adobe Photoshop)

In this astrophotography image processing tutorial, I will explain an easy way to selectively boost the colors in your image. I like to call the technique “selective color boosting“.

Use Topaz Labs DeNoise AI for Noise Reduction

The goal of Topaz Labs DeNoise AI is to reduce digital image noise while preserving detail and increasing image sharpness. If you’re no stranger to astrophotography image processing, that almost sounds too good to be true.

Recommended Processing Software:

If you’re looking for a book to help you select deep-sky astrophotography targets, I highly suggest The 100 Best Astrophotography Targets

This book discusses the objects in the night sky tonight are large enough, bright enough, and high enough to be photographed for each month of the year.

Astrophotography Books

I have put together a list of the best astrophotography books available. These useful guides cover everything from learning how to use a telescope for visual observations, to advanced image processing techniques.

Many of these books include detailed, step-by-step tutorials on everything from polar alignment to image stacking. While I prefer to do the majority of my learning online, a physical, hard-copy book is often a nice change of pace.

astrophotography books

Some of my favorite books include The Backyard Astronomers Guide, and The Practical Astronomer. Here is the complete list:

  1. Digital SLR Astrophotography Second Edition, by Michael A. Covington
  2. Photographing the Night Sky, by Alyn Wallace
  3. Astrophotography Second Edition, by Thierry Legault
  4. The Practical Astronomer Second Edition, by Anton Vamplew
  5. The Backyard Astronomers Guide, by Terrance Dickinson and Alan Dyer
  6. The Astrophotography Sky Atlas, by Charles Bracken
  7. Photography: Night Sky by Jennifer Wu & James Martin
  8. The Astrophotography Manual, by Chris Woodhouse
  9. The Deep-Sky Imaging Primer (Second Edition), by Charles Bracken
  10. Getting Started: Budget Astrophotography, by Allan Hall
  11. Lessons from the Masters by Robert Gendler
  12. Inside PixInsight (Second Edition) by Warren A. Keller
  13. Getting Started: Long Exposure Astrophotography by, Allan Hall
  14. 1,001 Celestial Wonders to See Before You Die by Michael E. Bakich
  15. The 100 Best Astrophotography Targets by Ruben Kier