Adobe Lightroom Tutorial: Night Skies by Mukul Soman

Custom SLR Contributor

Guest post by Mukul Soman

Hello everybody! It's an absolute pleasure to be part of this awesome tutorial series brought to you by Custom SLR and SomanMateo Photography. Today we are concentrating on night skies for a before and after processing run through. I chose this image of the Milky Way that I had photographed about a month ago at Hurricane Ridge, WA, as I thought it's a decent exposure that can be processed to its full glory by just following a few steps in Adobe Lightroom.

About Mukul Soman

Mukul Soman is a National Geographic published photographer. He has been exploring photography from when he was just 5 years old. Today he heads his own photography business, SomanMateo Photography, along with his wife, Mary Dee Mateo. Mukul is also a reputed feature film and video game artist and is currently working with Turn 10 Studios as a cinematographer for its flagship title, Forza Motorsports 5.

Using Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, Mukul starts with a photograph of the Milky Way he took in Hurricane Ridge in Washington, shot with a Nikon D3S, ISO 1600, f/2, 35mm lens. (Tip: To see the photo information overlay in Lightroom, hit Cmd + I on Mac or Ctrl + I on PC)

Here are the steps he takes:

  1. Click “Develop” on the top row.

  2. To make the stars and patterns in the sky stand out, bump up the contrast. This will make the whites more white and the darks more dark.

  3. Next, scroll down and increase the clarity. This will make the sky and the stars pop, but be careful not to bump it up too high, resulting in an unnatural-looking halo around sharp edges.

  4. Scroll down to the Tone Curve to refine the sky a bit more. Drag the right part of the curve upward to bring up the highlights. Drag the middle part of the curve downward to bring down the midtones. Lastly, drag the left part of the curve downward to bring down the shadows. Now the colors should really be enhanced in the sky.

  5. In Mukul’s photograph, there is excess orange on the top of the mountains. To reduce this, he goes to saturation and reduces the orange until it is more subdued.

  6. Next, Mukul moves on to edit the mountains. To bring them out a bit more, he increases the shadows.

  7. To make edits that only affect the mountains and not the sky, Mukul creates a graduated filter. To do this, click the filter icon on the upper right.

  8. Click and drag the filter over the part of the photo you want to edit. Adjust the filter using the controls on the right.

  9. For Mukul’s photo, he adds the graduated filter over the mountains and then increases shadows and exposure and decreases saturation.

  10. When you’re done making changes with the graduated filter, click “Done” on the lower right part of the image.

  11. After this, Mukul’s image is almost where he wants it to be. As a final touch, to enhance the green in the sky, he clicks on saturation and bumps up the green. Then, he clicks luminance and bumps up the green there too. He also increases the blues a bit to bring out the blue in the mountains and the sky.

Now you know how to make your night sky photos even better! Speaking of night sky photos, have you entered our contest yet? Share your best night sky photos for a chance to win a Fotopro tripod. The photo with the most votes by 5am PDT on Wednesday, August 21 wins! So be sure to tell your friends to vote for you. Click here to enter the contest:


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