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RAW photography editing Photoshop tutorial

Long Exposure Milky Way RAW Editing Tutorial

 In this tutorial we are going to edit two raw photos of night Photography. I will show you how to edit two long exposure photos in Lightroom/Camera RAW and Photoshop and get a nice image. The final image is created from two images: one of them exposed for the stars and the milky way and the second one exposing for the road and the car headlights.

Long Exposure RAW editing tutorial

Long Exposure milky way. Double exposure night photo editing in Photoshop



Milky Way RAW editing Video Tutorial

Both images were taken with a 30 seconds exposure in order to get the light trails of my car going down the road but I changed the ISO and aperture when I exposed for the stars. Here are the settings I used for both images:

Car headlights Milky Way
  • ISO: 100
  • Aperture: F3,5
  • Exposure: 30 seconds
  • ISO: 1000
  • Aperture: F2,8
  • Exposure: 30 seconds

TIP: For night photography always shoot raw. You will get a better dynamic range and your milky way picture will come out a lot better.
These settings also depend on your camera and the lens you use. I use these night photography settings for time-lapse. With the settings shown on the table above, the car headlights are well exposed but the surroundings are a bit underexposed and the milky way was quite heavily underexposed. I should have used a much higher ISO but luckily I shoot raw and when you edit raw photos you have a lot more dynamic range.

Editing the RAW Photos in Lightroom or Camera RAW

NOTE!: These settings are not the same as the ones shown on the video tutorial

I usually use Lightroom to edit raw photos but you can open them in Photoshop and you will access Camera RAW which is exactly the same as Lightroom but on a different interface. I started editing the image of the car headlights.

I increased the Exposure to 1.25, bumped up the Clarity and Shadows and changed the White Balance to get a colder look on the image. I also increased the Saturation and Vibrance to make the image more colorful. You can edit raw photos depending on your own taste. Check the settings bellow for more info.

Long Exposure photography editing tutorial

 You can further edit the Tone Curve to correct the contrast edit your night photos in Lightroom or Camera RAW. I also use the HSL module to selectively edit the colors, especially the red color on the rocks left by the breaking lights. With this module you can make the red more intense or make it darker or brighter.

How to edit RAW long exposure photos in Lightroom
With the HSL module you can edit color selectively in Lightroom/Camera RAW

Remove chromatic aberrations with the Lens Corrections module. You can do this in Photoshop as well but doing in Lightroom or Camera RAW it’s a lot easier and usually more effective. Also sharpen and reduce noise to your liking.

Reduce Chromatic Aberrations on night photos

Edit RAW photos of the Milky Way

Editing the second raw photo of the milky way it’s more of the same thing. Just increase the Saturation and  exposure a bit because I took the Photo too underexposed. Then use the HSL Sharpening and Noise Reduction modules to fix and edit the image your way. I did not use any local adjustments but you can use Graduated Filters if you want. Also try using the Split Tone module.

Milky Way RAW editing tutorial

Composing both raw photos in Photoshop

When you’re done editing open both images Photoshop. Do not apply any distortion corrections otherwise your images will not match. You can correct distortions once both images are merged. Put the milky way image on top of the long exposure shot with the light trails. Use the Quick Selection Tool to select the sky and hide the bottom part of the image using a layer mask.

Composing long exposure images in Photoshop.

Once both images are well composed you can merge them or create a stamp of the visible layers and make more color or contrast adjustments in Photoshop. When you’re done, make your image a bit smaller and sharpen it. Your milky way image will look a lot better when it’s sharp.

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