Video: Tutorial Shows You Exactly How to Capture the Milky Way in Heavy Light Pollution

A couple of days ago, we republished a short tutorial by talented photographer Justin Ng that explained how he uses the Expose To The Right (ETTR) method to capture milky way photos in the heavy light pollution of Singapore.

But if you’d like a more detailed, video run through, this tutorial by astrophotographer Ian Norman — whose Sony a7S Astrophotography Review, incidentally, appeared on PetaPixel yesterday — shows you exactly how to adjust your images to get the perfect results.

It’s a fantastic tutorial. In 7 minutes Norman gives you a few tips on how to capture Milky Way photos, explains what ETTR is, and then shows you exactly how you have to process an ETTR image in Lightroom to bring out the milky way.

Here’s the before and after of the image he processes in the video:

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 8.33.50 AM

Screen Shot 2014-07-31 at 8.36.09 AM

At the end of the tutorial, he also goes through and explains why shooting with a lower ISO and shutter speed to capture a properly exposed image and then applying these same edits will actually yield a NOISIER image than using ETTR.

Check out the tutorial to see how you can get these results yourself, and then click here to head over to Lonely Speck and see more of Norman’s astrophotography tips and reviews.

(h/t Reddit)

  • OtterMatt

    Not sure why he’s so adamant about ISO 6400. Surely if I drop the ISO as low as I can and go with a much longer exposure, I’ll have even higher signal to noise ratio, yes? I’m not sure how he gets a 30-second exposure at 6400 out there, though, I took some sky shots in much less light-polluted areas and only got 15-second exposures for a normal image. Maybe it’s because my camera is APS-C. I suppose I’ll have to play around with it and see what I can get.

    Overall, it’s a decent overview, but his photo is considerably worse than yesterday’s demo. I’m more interested in seeing more of the post-processing from Justin (and similar), because you just can’t make these into decent images with only Lightroom’s sliders.

  • Rob Elliott

    you having a APS-C should have nothing to do with it. the 5DmkII had great low light.

    I think it is more a movement thing. You actually want the shortest exposure possible. Remember the Milkyway and the stars move. Longer exposures introduce motion blur which you want to try to avoid.

  • Sum_it

    Because with longer exposure, the stars begin to trail.

  • OtterMatt

    Aaaaand now I feel stupid for asking. Someday I’ll brain beforehand. >_<

  • Alvin Wu

    I second that. If you have been to Singapore, you’ll know that it’s almost impossible to make any decent images taken from Singapore with those sliders. Clearly Justin’s tutorial is a winner here.

  • Rob Elliott

    It happens. :)

  • Dave Wilson

    I’ve been trying to find a good Dark Sky app or web site for Canada but haven’t found anything. Anyone have any advice?

  • Mikey

    I keep asking myself, why? The final results don’t look that great in my opinion, well not ones I would put on my wall anyway. Just drive another 30 mins to a darker location and save yourself the hassle :)

  • Ilker Sen

    Stellarium for desktop is great! For mobile, I use Startracker.

  • Chris

    Some of us who live in densely populated urban environments don’t have this opportunity. Requires more like a 3 hour drive for myself (or overseas flight).

  • Eric Frame

    In this example he was in the Los Angeles region….a 30min drive in ANY direction from LA won’t get you any darker skies. Plus, we’ve all seen milky way shots over the desert. Getting one over a nice city skyline would be a nice change.

    I’m hoping the next new moon with be clear skies, I’d like to try this.

  • EleanorENewsome

    just before I looked at the draft of $8280 , I didnt
    believe …that…my best friend woz truly receiving money in their spare time
    at their laptop. . there great aunt has done this for under 14 months and
    recently repaid the loans on there apartment and bourt a brand new
    Mercedes-Benz S-class . Check This Out J­a­m­2­0­.­C­O­M­

  • BOSS jediZOHAN

    There are a few factors to keep in mind. Firstly, movement is the big and obvious one. The longer your exposure, the more the sky “moves,” etc. But to answer your noise question…

    Basically, noise is a function of heat and time. The longer a DSLR is exposing for, the hotter the sensor will get. The hotter the sensor gets, the less efficient it becomes and the more noise you get in your signal (signal to noise ratio). So, while cranking your ISO does have an obvious effect of adding noise to your image, it’s really more because it’s a digital gain applied to the image the camera sensor records.* Exposed properly, which typically isn’t what happens when you crank your ISO and try shooting handheld in a dark room, even high-ISO images will have relatively little noise. The biggest factor that causes noise is time. Too little time for your exposure will reduce the amount of usable data in the image which adds noise. Too much time and you’re adding noise by decreasing the efficiency of the sensor via heat.

    So while you could shoot this at ISO 100, most DSLRs won’t expose for longer than 30 seconds and if they do, the amount of noise generated by sensor heat will render the image useless. By using a high ISO, you’re decreasing the amount of time needed for a proper ETTR exposure and bringing it within the limits of the camera. You’re still going to want to keep your exposure under 30 seconds and if you can get the ETTR exposure under 30 seconds at 6,400, drop the ISO as low as you can before you can’t hit 30 seconds any more.

    In short, you’re using a higher ISO to decrease the exposure time which reduces blurring and shortens the exposure time which limits the noise generated by sensor heat. A lower ISO is always better, unless it extends your exposure time beyond 30 seconds, which is typically the longest exposure a DSLR will give you a “usable” image at.

    As for the “quality” or aesthetic of this post verses the previous post’s, it really just that the previous post had a more extensive workflow. The HDR toning, masking, and curves adjustments are what add that “finished” asthmatic to the images. This tutorial will get you an editable image that you can HDR tone and tweak to get your desire effect.

    *Camera sensors have a physical “native” sensitivity and past a certain ISO, you’re just telling the camera to brighten the image when you shoot rather than make the sensor more sensitive in the analog sense.

  • Bill

    I like that his tutorial is pretty basic and straightforward without all the techy lingo. I always liked astrophotography as a thing to do for some interesting photos but never really tried it as I live in a heavily light polluted area, but maybe I will give this a try.

    No I am going to sound like a douche for saying this, but I like his step by step tutorial but hate they way he talks as if everything is a question. It bugs me that so many people talk with a higher pitch at the end of a sentence, to me it sounds as if they are not sure of themselves or what they are saying. Okay, now I’m a douche, I know.

  • Frank Multari

    It stands out to me as well but I think I remember reading about how it’s typical speech pattern in California. So it’s not his fault, we’re just not used to it.

  • sam west

    Also depends on lens… 30 seconds he probably has a 14mm… I use a 24mm and I can only go 20 secs at 6400 iso. Regardless of what lens you use there is star blur, but the wider the lens the harder it is to notice.

  • sam west is a nice one too

  • sam west

    I live in Albuquerque, NM, and I still have to drive round trip two hours to get decent shots.