Retouching a Sky

Earlier this summer, during a backpacking trip in the sierras, I had a great chance to photograph the milky way. Unfortunately, my camera's low light performance falls apart pretty bad once I get above 1600 ISO, and this was shot at 6400. The reason I had to shoot at such a high sensitivity was because I needed to keep my exposure 30 seconds or under to avoid getting star trails, and the lens I used had a maximum aperture of f/4. The original photo wasn't bad, it had decent exposure for the stars, and there were good colors in they sky. However, there were some ugly yellow bands in the image and lots of noise from the high ISO, and long exposure. So, I set to work re-doing the colors in the sky to eliminate the bands, and help the noise.

To start off, let's look at the original raw file:

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 7.33.57 AM

Not too many artifacts right? Well, once I edited the image in Lightroom the banding and noise became much more apparent. You can see the yellow banding especially well in the lower left corner:

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 7.33.46 AM

Once I was finished with the image in Lightroom, then I took it over to PS to edit it. I started off by using a hue/saturation adjustment layer to pick the yellow colors in the lower left corner, and then bring them down:

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 7.40.37 AM

After that, I used a curves adjustment layer to move the colors around a little, and make them a little more blue:

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 7.42.54 AM

Then I made a stamp visible layer by pressing Shift+Command+Option+E. Then I duplicated the layer once so that I had two. After that, I used a technique called frequency separation which separates the details from the colors and tones in an images. This allows you to edit them separately, which allows a lot of control. After that, I created new layers in between the detail and color layers. That way, I could re-paint the colors in the sky to help make them truer:

Screen Shot 2014-10-04 at 7.49.02 AM

Looks better, but by re-doing all the colors I lost some textures in the sky. So, I rendered some clouds using the filter menu in PS, and then blended them in using a layer mask and the soft light blending mode:

After that, I checked everything, and looked at my before and after to see if it looked real. Then, I called it finished:

Milky Way

-Graceson Aufderheide

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This blog discusses Graceson's interests and ideas, including: Lightroom and Photoshop tips, photography discussions, jewelry crafting, new projects, gear reviews, and more.

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Image of GracesonMy name is Graceson Aufderheide, but you have probably figured that out already. I am currently a senior in high school who photographs, teaches, and makes jewelry. I have always been creating, that is what I do.
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