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Photography Tips - Stacking

Nightscape and long exposure images typically contain a great deal of noise, random variations of brightness and color, caused by sensor heat and higher ISOs. Stacking is one of the easiest techniques to help reduce that noise and produce clearer, sharper images.

Noise tends to be random so it's never in the same place in every image. Stacking is the process of taking multiple sequential images and them stacking them together with software then running a median filter so only that which is in all images remains.

It begins with capturing images. Instead of single images you need to take multiples of each composition. My typical workflow it to get 9 to 18 images which can be done automatically by the camera. Results can be achieved with more and less images but this range seems to work best.

Once imported the images must then be aligned precisely which can be difficult in nightscapes since the earth rotates causing the stars to be in slightly different positions in every frame. Manual alignment can be done in Photoshop but this is difficult and time consuming. Starry Landscape Stacker for Mac and Sequator for Windows can handle this process for you.

Sharp images exported from Sequator and SLS are brought back into Lightroom or Camera Raw to begin post processing. Since they contain significantly less noise that the original images it makes it possible to push them farther and produce amazing nightscapes.

Check out my tutorial on StarryLandscape Stacking here.

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