How to Post Process Star Trail Photographs in Lightroom
Astrophotography,  Photo Processing,  Software

How to Post Process your Star Trail Photographs in Lightroom

After hours outside photographing your star trails with your Olympus OM-D or other camera, your final image output by the camera probably looks something like this.  

Star Trails with No Post Processing
Star Trails with No Post Processing

This is due to light pollution and how dark of a location you were photographing your Star Trails.  But don’t worry, this can all be corrected in lightroom.

Here are the steps that I take to process my star trail photographs using only the Develop Module in Adobe Lightroom.

Crop the image.  Chances are your star trail isn’t perfectly centered. To help with centering the image, turn on the grid in the cropping tool by going to the Tools Menu – Crop Guide Overlay – Grid.

Slide the Blacks slider almost all the way down to the left.

The bottom part of your image will probably be lighter than the top of the image.   This is due to light pollution which is stronger the closer you get to the surface of the earth.  Use the Graduated Filter Icon (Rectangle in the row with Cropping Tool) to even out the darkness in the image.

Align Gradient Filter to Darken Bottom of Star Trail
Align Gradient Filter to Darken Bottom of Star Trail

Hover over the black dot in the filter line over the image to see the filter mask.  The darker the red of the mask, the more impact the adjustment will have on that part of the image.  You will want the red part of the mask at the bottom of the image.

Adjust the Black and Exposure sliders so there is even darkness across the top and bottom of the image.

Gradient Filter Darkening Lower Half of Star Trail
Gradient Filter Darkening Lower Half of Star Trail

Click on the Graduated Filter Icon to exit Graduated Filter editing.

Do final adjustments with the Blacks and Exposure sliders for the entire image.

If you don’t like the colors in the star trail, slide the saturation slider to the left until you get a black and white image.

I like to darken the center of the star trail to draw the eye into the photograph.  To do this, you can use the Radial Filter (located next to the Gradient Filter).  Make sure you click on the invert check box at the bottom of the panel to apply the adjustments inside of the Radial Filter circle instead of outside.

Radial Filter to Darken Center of Star Trail
Radial Filter to Darken Center of Star Trail

Use the Exposure and/or Blacks sliders to darken the area inside the Radial Filter Circle.

Click on the Radial Filter Icon to exit Radial Filter editing.

Remove Noise and Sharpen as desired.

Final Star Trail Image
Final Star Trail Image

Written by Martin Belan

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