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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.

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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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