Milky Way Photography: Lightroom Tutorial – Basic Workflow

Milky Way Photography: Lightroom Tutorial - Basic Workflow

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This week I’m showing you my basic Lightroom workflow with a few photographs submitted by some of you. In particular I will do some astrophotography. I also got a lot of shots from a ton of you, including BackBurner, David Mikic, Francesco Paggiaro, Fraser Harrison, Rob Nelson, Lasse Grotwinkel, Marc Frederiksen, Shannon Hill, Jessie Jim, and Simon Patterson. Big thanks to all of you. I will be using more of these, so stay tuned. You are helping the entire community.

The shot I pulled was (ironically) from what appears to be my Canadian doppelganger, Rob Nelson. He is a photographer up north who is also and ecologist/geologist. He had some amazing night photography that he submitted. I thought I’d pull one of his to show the basic process you might use to pull out the milky way in a photo. Learn more about Rob’s photography at: and follow him on IG and Twitter – @robnelson4

When shooting the milky way, there are a few things to think about. First, you want to get as much of the milky way exposed as possible without blurring the stars. This a little bit depends on your lens. Many fotographers use the 500 rule to determine their shutter speed. You divide your lens into 500. So, if you had a 50mm lens (500/50), you couldn’t expose longer than 10 seconds. If you had a 25mm lens, you could expose for 20 seconds – etc. In this case, Rob had a 16mm lens with a shutter speed of 15 seconds. I think he could have even exposed longer, which may have given a better histogram. However, with the people in the shot, you risk them blurring as they stand their. The truth is, there is a lot to work with in this photo.

A lot of photo manipulation is personal preference. Keep in mind that I’m doing a lot of manipulation based on my preferences. For much of what I do, I like the surreal look. I often add vibrant colors that may look unnatural to what you had in the environment. I’m not a purist. However, the few things that you have to keep in mind are:

1. Don’t over-do the grain. It will look bad.
2. Milky Way shots are best if your eye is drawn to it.
3. Always remember your distribution. If you’re making photos for a giant wall, work hard to eliminate any noise.

I have more I’d love to share if you’re interested. Leave your comments below on how your workflow is different. Feel free to give me tips. That not only helps me, but it helps the entire community.

Make sure to watch Jonas’ retouching video in a future episode…

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46 thoughts on “Milky Way Photography: Lightroom Tutorial – Basic Workflow”

  1. That's not bad, but I think at this photo Milky Way seems unnatural. Where have you seen a purple parts in Milky Way?

  2. I really don't get how all of these youtubers that show Lightroom editing have absolutely no idea on how to properly edit….It's like seeing a child play with sliders

  3. Just wanted to make sure everyone knows that if they drag the noise slider down like you did in Lightroom, it introduces noise. If you drag it up, it reduces noise.

  4. This is insanely cool, I had NO IDEA you could pull out such strong astronomical images out of regular night sky! Its incredible! Please keep this video up in the air and ignore haters! This helps me alot. They're just jealous cause ur awsome

  5. A little off topic, but can someone answer this; Can a HDR photo be taken and saved as RAW? I like shooting in RAW, but when I change my Canon 6d to HDR mode, it gives me JPEG. THanks

  6. I have no idea what you are doing……… Editing seems to be so darned complicated. How do you learn any of this stuff !

  7. To stop your monitor flickering on your video, you can change the Hz to whatever FPS your video is being recorded at.
    I think that'll fix it, anyway.

    Thanks for the video, I like the look of the photos.

  8. In my opinion it is overdone … leave it like 3:02 and i think its much more realistic . Just pop the milky way but in a natural way

  9. Ok, one of us is confused here.. why are you referring to that portion in the sky as the Milky Way? The Milky Way is an entire galaxy.. which we are in.. and would be impossible to photograph. Help me out here.

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