Ive been sitting on this article for far too long. This was my very first star shoot and even though I learned a ton, I felt my photos could have been better so I procrastinated finishing this how to article. I then realized, we are all growing and learning and what better way to share my mistakes and growth. I can share my not so perfect pictures and grow from that. After all, thats why we are photographers, to always learn and grow.
Im also sharing what Ive learned because I had a chance to go out on another night shoot in Vegas where I was able to help many photographers make time-lapses and star trails in Red Rock Canyon. Heres the link to the original article where you can learn step by step in the actual shooting of your star trails: Part 1. A lot of the same knowledge of shooting time-lapse is the same in shooting start trails. That was a huge confidence boost for me, I know how to shoot time-lapses.
There are a few ways to create your image in post. This is the way Ive learned and am most comfortable with.
1. Bring all your images into Bridge. Yes I still use Bridge. Its one of those applications where I found its easier and better organized for this purpose as well as making Timelapses. If you use something else, share your workflow in the comments.
2. Select all your images and open in Camera Raw. Edit one image how you like. Once you’ve processed that image, select all the images and right-click to sync those edits.
3. Click Save and then click Done. You can click done even when its not done saving and it will process in the background.
4. Export TIFF Images. I chose to make a new folder and save as tiff files so I can also make a time-lapse using these same images.
5. Open all the images. With all your photos selected, click Tools > Photoshop > Load files into Photoshop layers. If you have a lot of images, this could take awhile. The anticipation for me was exciting.
6. Start to Blend. Go to the layer just above the bottom layer, click on Layer blending options and select Lighten This will blend the layers together keeping only the lightest areas of the photo.
7. Continue to Mix the Layers. Continue selecting each layer and change the blending mode to Lighten. You can use his chance to get rid of airplanes or shooting stars. You can select all and then do Lighten but I really wanted to remove the moths and the airplane. I had to remove frames of when a moth tried to visit my lens as you can see here:
As you make your way to the last layer, you will see your trails appear.
8. Simplify. Finally when you get to the top layer, you can flatten you image :D
Note: If you want to flatten nondestructively, select all the layers and right click. You can now create a smart object which can be edited later.
Here’s the final image:
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