If you want to get more depth, light and color in your Milky Way images, you might want to change to multiple image captures and process in Starry Landscape Stacker. It’s very targeted software for night sky photography but worth it to increase the quality of your images.

You can see a horizontal version of this same Milky Way scene here. If you are a PC user, you’ll want to use Sequator software.

Limited by the Earth’s movement

There are limitations to capturing stars in the night sky. Some involve equipment but all are subject to the rotation of the earth. As you try to gather enough light on your sensor longer times lead to star trailing. While that can be a great image if that is what you are going for it hurts stills images making things appear out of focus.

Made from 8 light frames by Starry Landscape Stacker 1.8.0. Algorithm: Mean Min Hor Noise, Adobe Camera Raw as a plugin. Plus another image processed for the foreground.

Is a star tracker the answer?

How do you get more light to the sensor without trails? One way is to purchase another piece of equipment and learn how to use it. Mount a camera on a star tracker and mimic the rotation of the Earth for longer exposure times.

I personally haven’t had much luck with this method. You need to line the unit up with Polaris and hope that is correct. There is a lot more gear under your camera which can lead to a less stable platform which adds the possibility of camera shake. I feel these units are needed more for deep space photography than for Milky Way images.

Capture your images

Set your camera on a solid tripod. Then use an app such as PhotoPills to determine the best exposure for your camera, lens and aperture.

It is recommended to make 10-40 images for the stars. I used eight in this example, and shot a different image for the foreground. You can also add a dark frame making the exposure of the same duration with the lens cap in place.

For a horizontal view of the same scene dedicated more to the capture process, check here.

The process

With many cameras you can work directly with the RAW files. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, RAW files are not supported.

I processed all star exposure files with the exact same settings and saved to 16 bit TIFF. Then I placed these in a folder and opened Starry Landscape Stacker. Then I pointed to the folder with TIFF images and selected them.

For me, making multiple images and using the Starry landscape Stacker software to build up the light capture and help tame noise with multiple images has been the way to go.

Here’s the Adobe Photoshop Layers palette. In addition to the processed files I added a Color Lookup Adjustment Layer at low opacity to unify the color of the entire image.

Yours in Creative Photography, Bob