I know it looks unreal/fake, but how can I take photos like this example? It's not a very long exposure because there are no trails. Also Betelgeuse looks noticeably red and it's cool. You can also recognize many known stars easily.

enter image description here


2 Answers 2


To make big stars like this, consider using a softening filter. It will help to spread the energy over a larger area and this the star colors will show up better.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Diffusing the light of each star will make the larger area dimmer. So, they may be larger, but they won't really be brighter unless you expose for longer, or use a higher ISO (which will have the added drawback of increasing noise, which can eat away at star detail quite considerably.) If you lengthen the exposure time, you will encounter startrails. If you slap the camera on a tracking mount, you'll blur the landscape. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Feb 5, 2013 at 21:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Might want to look at what Hutech offers as a constellation filter. Looks like this might have been used on this shot. sciencecenter.net/hutech/kenko/softfilter/index.htm Photographer Alan Dyer talks about his method of using the filter on his blog: amazingsky.net/2011/02/21/fuzzy-constellations \$\endgroup\$
    – smigol
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 17:43
  • \$\begingroup\$ As far as I can tell, he is using a tracking mount. You can tell, as the landscape in the foreground of one of the mouseover images is moving, while the sky itself is stationary. That allows you to expose for considerably longer periods of time, and achieve significantly higher saturation at the sensor. That makes using a diffuser an option, as you can expose for minutes rather than seconds, and maximize SNR so the dimmer, diffused light is usefully bright. You DO, however, get that blurry foregound landscape. \$\endgroup\$
    – jrista
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 19:07

Consider using a higher ISO, but that will create more noise in the image, and is likely to catch much more of a sky glow if you happen to be near a city or town.

Best shoot in raw and try out a large number of ISOs for the shot, and then see how much detail and noise you could recover using Photoshop/Lightroom/Aperture/Other Software. You'll have to experiment a fair bit with this.

What may work for you if your're trying to avoid a sky glow is to use a graduated ND filter (like a Cokin) , but with the darker side towards the ground. It might mess with your composition and its resulting exposure though. I haven't really tried that, so it may work or it may not.

Finally, if you want to use low ISOs and long exposure times, consider getting a tracking mount for your camera. The mount moves the camera at the same rate as the rotation of the earth, thus avoiding the smears you get with long exposure. This is a somewhat expensive solution though.

Also, let us know what works best for you in the end. :-)

  • \$\begingroup\$ That's what I thought when I saw the photo - a tracking mount of some kind. Looks like a long exposure but no trails at all. Either that or very high ISO and unusually ideal conditions + really wide aperture f1.2? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 15:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ FWIW a tracking mount is not overly expensive - Google barn door tracker and you'll instructions on how to make one. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tony
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 15:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ I tried higher ISO, all the visible/invisible stars appear as noise, you cannot recognize which star is which and all of them are same color, same big. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nime Cloud
    Commented Feb 6, 2013 at 22:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ A barn door tracker is good for slightly longer exposures, but since it is operated by hand, its not as accurate for significantly longer exposures. You could also try stacking multiple exposures, and under expose some of the frames to get the dark areas right. \$\endgroup\$
    – Archit
    Commented Feb 7, 2013 at 18:31

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