Photography - Knowledge

How to Click the Magical Star Trails: A Quick Guide

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When it comes to clicking natural wonders, star trails are something that the photography enthusiasts love to shoot. Now you may ask what are star trails? It is basically a type of photography that captures the motion of the stars. As the Earth rotates, the position of the stars changes and when you capture the phenomenon on your camera, it looks as if stars have painted the sky in a circular motion! The entire star trails photography looks magical. 

What are the key factors for the perfect star trails photography?

A proper ‘bulb’ setting and longer exposure can offer nice photographs of the moving start to the photographers. To shoot a star trail properly, a photographer must keep a minimum of 15 minutes to numerous hours of exposure time. These trails look amazing on photographs as the movements of thousands of stars together, looking like lines produce a design that marks an unbelievably beautiful phenomenon. Now let’s dive into the complete details of how to click awestruck star trails photo.

What Equipment Needed for Making Star Trails

Now that you have decided to click star trails, you should first sort out the gears that you would need. 

You are suggested to keep a certain set of equipment handy to shoot the marvellous start trails without any hassle. 

  • A good manual camera - You can handpick a good camera that will let you set the ISO, shutter speed, exposure and aperture according to your requirement. Know about the essential equipment for long exposure photography.
  • A timer- Having a timer handy makes it easier for you to click several photos one after the other in a long exposure. A timer allows a camera to take photographs with an exposure time of more than 30 seconds. 
  • A good quality tripod - To get crystal clear photographs without blur and shakes, you must carry a good quality tripod that will hold the camera still while shooting. 
  • Batteries with a full charge- To avoid unwanted interruptions, you must keep 5 to 6 batteries fully charged because the shoot can continue for several hours. 
  • Keep a Wide Angle Lens- Keeping a wide angle lens is an intelligent option to click the starry affair in a better way. f/2 or f/2.8 at 17mm as well as f/4 or f/4.5 lens is the ideal wide lenses that you can confidently choose to shoot star trails. 
  • Memory card- This will help you store all your shoots in a jiffy. If you are confused on which to pick between SDHC vs SDHX, then do take a look here. 
equipment needed for star trails
Equipments for Star Trails (source)

Ideal Ambience to Click the Star Trails

To shoot the star trails ideally, one needs to have a natural surrounding that is ideal in all senses. 

  • First of all, the area you choose must be distant from man-made light. The location must be free from light pollution.
  • Either shoot before one and a half hour of sunrise or shoot after one and half hour of sunset. 
  • One can also shoot after one and half hour once the moon is set. 

Preparation Tips for a Photographer

Apart from arranging the different planning tools and maintaining other important aspects, a photographer must follow a few steps to keep himself prepared for the whole procedure. 

  • Keep flashlights handy 
  • Keep a good chair
  • Arrangement of sleeping bags will be good if required
  • Carrying food and hot beverages will assure the photographer throughout the procedure.  

How to Capture Star Trails

Let’s get straight into it.

The expert photographers recommend multiple ways that are ideal to shoot star trails. According to the experts, it is always good to start by clicking test photos. This leads a photographer to understand the right aspects which are suitable for his photography purposes. 

  1. Keep your camera rock steady by using a good tripod. Then apply extreme exposure along with activating the bulb mode of the camera. 
  2. Advanced camera settings are pretty important here. Keep the shutter speed 30 seconds or you can set more than 30 seconds as per your understanding. ISO must be kept between 400 to 800.
  3. Wider angle gives always better pictures; hence a 14-24mm lens at 14mm would deliver ideal results for sure. 
  4. Set the timer for the desired time frame and make sure you turn off the auto focus while leaving the camera to do its work.
  5. Once the timer goes off, instantly reset the timer without fail. 
  6. If you are confused between single and multiple exposures, then we suggest multiple exposures!

You can use any camera for this, the moonlight and light pollution would be under control and you can capture the true colour of the stars!

star trails
Capture Star Trails (source)

The EXIF data for a single image is the stored data that one gets from a photograph. The elements such as shutter speed, white balance, ISO speed, aperture, camera model, focal length, lens type along with date and time comes in a compact way as EXIF data. The EXIF data is helpful because it saves the time of the photographer in adjusting the setting when he shoots the same subject again. If you own a DSLR, then there are hidden functions in it, which ar the holy grail for clicking photos. 

Take Care of the Exposure Time Settings

  • An exposure that is auto calculated is not ideal for shooting star trails. To attain most favourable exposure, one can keep ISO at the highest possible range. An exposure of 10 seconds at f/4 is good in this regard. 
  • ISO can be lowered down along with making the exposure lengthy according to the need. Generally, the experience photographers suggest keeping the ISO 400 or so. At this point, the exposure must be tripled to get good results. 
  • The need of shorter exposure comes under light when the f/stop comes to f/3.5 from f/4.0  

Benefits of Different Exposures

Exposure that is lower than 31 seconds

  • Acts helpful while shooting star trails when there is much light in the sky.
  • Black out method can be applied while stacking the images to remove any appearance of any unwanted thing. 
  • A large number of photographs strengthens the possibilities of reducing noise. 

Exposure that is more than 31 seconds but lower than 8 minutes

  • Each and every exposure is assured to carry a trail.
  • A photographer will lose out only the last photograph if there is a case of battery run out.
  • High-quality images are assured to be taken.
  • Space availability is another result of the very exposure. 
  • Gaps formed by camera delay will make the trails look not as much of disturbing. 

Exposure that is more than 8 minutes

  • Post processing procedure becomes less time consuming when all the photographs get taken using the same exposure. 
  • Timer is not required while applying this exposure.
  • Long exposure noise reduction can be applied to enhance the quality of the photographs. 
  • One can attain the trails without gaps. 
  • A photographer who uses locking release cable can leave the exposure for a long time on its own without doing anything to it. 

Important Photo Editing Tips  

Undoubtedly, photo editing is an important step.

It is very important to take good care of the editing. Editing plays an important role while releasing the final version of a photograph. You can follow the following tips to perform ideal editing to your photographs. 

Which software would help you edit your photos?

Adobe Bridge and Adobe Photoshop are the two software that you can rely on to edit your photos. Adobe Bridge is a nice application that intelligently manages the raw files you desire to work on and it also channels those files to other suitable applications selected by the user. Hence, you can easily pass off the taken photographs to Photoshop in order to restore the areas that need proper editing. 

Photoshop is one of the reliable applications that most of the photographers use to get required editing done on their photographs. For touch up and enhancement purposes of images of any kind, this application proves to be very helpful. It is the reason, the application gets highly recommended by aspects when it comes to editing the star trails. 

Now learn the process:

Bring all the photos in the Adobe Bridge. Open the files in Adobe RAW and apply editing techniques accordingly. Select the photographs first, then click on tools, go to Photoshop and send the photos into the Photoshop layers. Keep all the images invisible apart from the one that remains in the extreme bottom layer. Now click ‘layer blending option’ and handpick ‘lighten’ and the blending will be done accordingly. You can use the brush tool and remove unwanted spots from the photographs. 

Photo editing
Lightroom Editing (source)

Importance of Stacking

Brightness compositing of star trail is the advantage that a photographer can obtain by stacking. The resulting output image carries the brightest pixel of each of the photographs in brightness mode. There are several statistical schemes of stacking that one can suitably use to composite star trails. 

Livingit Tip
Post processing of photographs is a major step to be followed by each and every photographer to do justice to his hard work and intelligence. 

Night Photography Tips 

Wouldn’t you want to know some tips and tricks on this amazing photography?

Clicking star trails is a passion to both professional and amateur photographers. And there are some important tips that one may follow to make night photography flawless as well as outstanding. 

  • Night photography requires patience and time to time check. The setting of the camera needs to be changed occasionally. Hence, it is better to carry a flashlight and chair to ease up the whole process of photographing. 
  • Make sure you place the tripod at a place that is suitable to catch the photographs. The flat and good surface is ideal for this purpose. But if the surface is not good, then it is necessary to have a tripod that can work well and hold the camera still during a string vibration also.
  • Proper usage of compass lets you understand the position of the stars and you ultimately get better photographs.
  • Make sure you keep the long exposure noise cancellation feature of the camera on. 
  • You must lower down the ISO to get rid of the noise. 
  • Make sure you lock the focus. 
  • Keep the LCD display off to save battery
  • Never miss taking taste photographs for a clear understanding of the outcomes. The test clicks determine the quality of the final photographs. 
  • To prevent unnecessary light from entering your frame, make sure you keep the eyepiece shutter closed.
  • Shooting the star trails RAW will always help you during the period of editing. 
  • Shorter exposure makes it easier for you to lower down noise and get a good range of pictures.
  • Keep plenty of battery fully charged to avoid sudden interruption.  

You will not like this-

There can be plenty of situations that can give you hard times while keeping with star trails.

But we have a solution-

It is always good to go to places that can offer an environment that is free of pollution. A clear sky is also ideal in this regard.

Livingit Tip
To capture the best photo, it is ideal to click on a clear night with no clouds or on a  meteor shower night.

But one can’t be lucky all the time but come across a lot of issues. Hence go through the following points to get the night-sky photos of great quality. 

Capture Different Hued and White Stars

Are you surprised to know that stars have colours? 

There are uncountable stars in the sky of different colours that provide the exquisite hue and look to the star trails. But sometimes, the photographs come up with prominent white stars only.

If you are someone who wants to capture the colours then check this- 

To catch almost all the colours at their best formats one must not keep ISO very high. Extended exposure time and too much light can also prevent the colourful stars to enter the frame properly. 
However, 400 to 800 ISO and a little bit close aperture can do wonders in this regard. A black sky and light pollution free environment can add extra clarity to the whole.

star trail
Different Hued Star Trail

Importance of Camera Noise Reduction Setting

When it comes to digital photography, noise reduction plays a very important part. 

Why is noise reduction crucial for photographers?

The appearance of optical warps such as unwanted patches, spots, staining ruin the overall quality of photographs. Hence setting of camera noise reduction is truly necessary. 

But noise reduction has an issue!

Gaps come between the exposures when the long exposure noise reduction does its job. A camera left with exposure with a possibility to shoot long, then high ISO noise reduction does not help that much. Hence, Camera Noise Reduction can be turned off at this point. 

camera settings
Noise Reduction Setting

Worry not!

Check when you can use noise reduction.

However, while clicking single shots, long exposure noise reduction can be used for better results. 

Low Light and Star Trail Photography

When it comes to shooting star trails, especially the beginners find the whole procedure exciting as it lets them shoot the night sky photos. The night sky, especially the pitch black sky is ultimately satisfying for the photographers when it comes to capturing the stars and their motion. The camera shoots it all that normal human eyes cannot see. The colours of the distant stars get highly visible when the exposure time settings and other aspects get adjusted properly. 

Capturing the night sky, especially the star trails are always an exciting and beautiful experience to photographers because the starry affair one catches is a treat to the eyes. And you can also do a little experiment with the whole process to come up with results that are different from others. If you enjoy astrophotography, then you would love lightning photography.

If you are planning to catch the star trails or have already done capturing them, then don’t hesitate to share your experiences with us. 

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Photography - Enthusiast
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