When you’ve taken some amazing shots of the night sky, you might think you’re done – but your work is just beginning. Enter astrophotography software, which will get you past the finish line.
No matter how wonderful your pictures are, they can always benefit from a bit of image processing.
What, exactly, is image processing?
This is when you improve a digital image so that it looks better, and it’s usually done with the use of computer software programs.
If you have some astrophotography images that you want to improve or enhance, you might wonder what types of programs you should be using.
Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with our list of astrophotography software that will make your starry images look professionally done.
While you might think processing your images is just about tweaking brightness and contrast, there are more amazing things you can do!
Camera control software enables you to tweak the settings on your camera so that you’ll get the best possible images of the night sky. If that sounds interesting, you’ll want to get your hands on Backyard EOS.
This software is meant for use with a Canon DSLR camera and has been built for astrophotography specifically. How it works is that it can control your camera and deep-sky exposure images, such as by taking photos that are 30 seconds or longer.
If you make use of “Planetary Mode,” it will even capture short movies with your DSLR camera by using it’s live view features, and send them to your computer.
What if you want to make adjustments to your telescope?
You can make use of software such as PHD2 that is basically software that guides your telescope. This makes it really easy to track stars. It even has a Polar Alignment Calculator that can help you when aligning your telescope!
Deep Sky Stacker
One of the most important ways to process your astrophotography pictures is to stack them. Image stacking refers to taking many shots of the same view, such as the moon or a planet, and then allowing your software to stack them.
This basically means that it will find the best parts of the images and create one image from all of them. It also means that you can reduce the digital noise that affects pixels across the stack of images.
Its sort of like the noise is spread out over the pixels in the images so by stacking the images you can decrease the noise to pixel ratio overall.
One of the best programs to stack your images is Deep Sky Stacker. It makes the process so much easier because it stacks your images in one convenient, high-resolution file. You’ll put all your frames – light, dark, flat, etc – into this file and then process it in Adobe Photoshop.
But Deep Sky Stacker is certainly not the only astrophotography software to use. Another one worth trying because it has benefits pertaining to astrophotography specifically is Lynkeos. It has wavelet sharpening and deconvolution method, both of which will help you.
Basically, wavelet sharpening is when you sharpen your pictures at different scales, so you can sharpen the details of different sizes independently from each other to bring out more details in your pics overall.
On the other hand, deconvolution refers to various features, such as removing blurriness as a result of atmospheric effects.
If you want to reveal more color in your star images, such as if you took a picture of a pink-hued nebulae and it’s looking washed out, you can achieve this with Adobe Photoshop.
This software processes lots of different images and makes use of adjustment tools such as “Curves” and “Levels” so that you can draw out more light and color from dark astrophotography pictures to make them look their best.
This software enables you to achieve star reduction, which makes the visible stars in the image less distracting.
While reducing stars might seem like the last thing you want to do, reducing enlarged stars and removing the smallest stars from the images is useful to make deep-sky objects, such as galaxies, become more visible.
You can also do other editing with this astrophotography software, such as removing light pollution from your images. This is important because light pollution filters don’t always remove light pollution when you’re taking pictures.
An example of how to improve your images involves using the “Color Gradient Removal” tool. This can help to remove orange or yellow glows that show up in images due to streetlights.
Astro Photography Tool
Astro Photography Tool is excellent for camera control software. It can work with many astrophotography cameras, such as CCD or EOS cameras.
It’s useful because it lets you control various camera features, such as plate solving. This is when you use the software with your equatorial mount to improve your telescope’s pointing accuracy.
It also helps with other tasks, such as framing the object you want to photograph in the best way. It’s easy to use, with a simple interface, which makes it user-friendly for beginners.
White balance, or color temperature, is one of the most important things you’ll need to tweak when processing your images because you don’t want to have washes of color in your background.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter what setting for white balance you use on your camera when you take the pictures because software such as Adobe LightRoom can help to fix them.
Just remember that you must shoot your images in RAW format because then you can easily process them afterwards.
You can experiment with the “Tint” and “Temperature” sliders so that you get the right color you want. Use them slowly to test them out and resist the temptation to make the colors too saturated. You want your astrophotography pics to look natural!
One of the best things you can do with Lightroom is correct lens defects. Lightroom contains a range of lens profiles that it uses to correct errors in the lens such as vignetting.
Mistakes To Avoid When Processing Your Astrophotography Images
As the saying goes, less is more! This couldn’t be truer than when it comes to your astrophotography images.
When you have the right software at hand, it can be really easy to over-process your images but this will leave you with an unnatural result. Here are some common image-processing mistakes to avoid.
Using Too Much Clarity
You might think that the more clarity the better, but while this can lead to your images looking amazing at first it can actually result in them looking overdone and artificial. Resist the temptation to use too much clarity in the entire image.
It’s better to make use of graduated filters or brushes, such as those in Lightroom, that will only target specific areas. This will correct the issues in the image while preserving its natural beauty.
Reducing The Noise Too Much
You want to avoid noise in your images, so this will make you gravitate towards sharpening its details.
However, it’s important to bear in mind that sharpening an image too much will add noise, so you want to be careful with it. What you might find as a result of over-sharpening your image is that your image lacks details and becomes unnaturally smooth.
Not Shooting Images In RAW Format
The RAW image format is preferable when taking images of the night sky because it will enable you to edit them much easier later.
But, RAW images are also better when it comes to how they maintain color. They have larger dynamic ranges, which makes them excellent when shooting celestial objects under bad light conditions.
And, this format enables you to recover lost details when you process your images, so consider choosing RAW images instead of JPEG formats the next time you head out to your favorite stargazing location.
What is a histogram?
This is a graph that displays how many pixels there are at any level of brightness in the image. It has black and white on its extreme edges and colors in between.
How should a histogram look when you’ve edited your image?
When you reach the end of your editing process, the histogram should be stretched across the spectrum, not bunched up in one portion of it (via Rascto).
When you have taken a bunch of images of the Milky Way or Jupiter, you might find that they’re not as fantastic as you would have liked them to be. Don’t worry – you can turn them into works of art by processing them!
In this article, we’ve featured some of the best astrophotography software you need to take your images from average to amazing.