Photoshop tutorials for professionals and beginners

Edit Milky Way images to get contrast & Colors

Getting contrast and color out of a milky way shot is not very complicated. There are a few filters and techniques that will allow you to get more stunning images.

Editing a night image is not that complicated but when dealing with astrophotography or editing milky way images, using a RAW image is a absolutely required.

I this tutorial I will give you a real RAW image of the milky way so you can practice.

Get the RAW files used

It’s not my best milky way shot but it will do for this tutorial. When shooting the milky way or the night sky in general, the composition is really important.

Always try to have some foreground interest. A context for your main subject, you can use vegetation, objects, vehicles, buildings, etc.
In this particular case, the subject is the milky way and I placed the abandoned house on the lower third of the frame and I illuminated it from inside.

The orientation is also important. In this case I chose a vertical orientation because the Milky Way was almost perpendicular to the ground and I wanted to get as much of it in frame as possible.

Have you ever wondered why the Milky Way is more visible during summer?

As you should already know, our galaxy is a spiral type one. Our solar system is located on one of the galaxies arms which spins around a massive black hole. That’s what gives it the spiral shape.

By R. Hurt – NASA/JPL (, Public Domain, Link

From earth we can’t see anything even close to what you can see on the image above. What we actually see is a transverse plane. In other words, we see through all the arms of the spiral. Like you can see on the picture below, which is a panoramic shot taken from earth.

By Digital Sky LLC – (The image was uploaded to at 17:16, 21 September 2006 by Twtunes., CC BY-SA 2.5, Link

If you want to photograph the Milky Way, the best time to do it is during the summer months because it’s the  time of the year when it’s most visible.

Why is the Milky Way more visible during summer?

The explanation is quite simple. During the summer months, the earth is located between the galactic core. That means that at night we are looking towards the center of the galaxy which is brighter and that’s what we are seeing on the sky. As you can see on my poor graphic representation below jajajaa.

During the winter months, at night we are looking deep into the universe, away from the center of the galaxy, on the opposite way.

So if you want to edit milky way images in Photoshop or Lightroom, taking a picture of the galaxy during the summer will increase your chances of getting a good bright shot.

How to get contrasty and colorful images of the Milky Way