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Archive 2013 · Need help with PP and printing of star/night photo

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Need help with PP and printing of star/night photo

This is my first post on FM but I've been following the threads on here for a good amount of time (amazing the talent on here and how much you can learn from that talent).

Anyway, I recently took a trip to New Zealand's South Island. I created a photo book of the trip and was particularly underwhelmed by how the photo I have here turned out in print. Also, this is my first attempt at serious printing of my photos. All the other photos (non-star shots) turned out great. Particularly for this photo, the stars don't "pop" as much on print as they do on the computer screen.

I'd appreciate any and all feedback as to PP techniques required to make sure star photos look their best as I plan to print this photo to frame.

For reference, I used LR4's book module to create the book and sent it to Blurb.com to print and bind. I chose a Standard Landscape, and premium lustre paper (semi-gloss I believe).

Jan 12, 2013 at 11:24 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Need help with PP and printing of star/night photo

Here are some suggestions. Since these are prints/printed books, the ideal process would be to run some test prints to fine-tune some of the adjustments I am going to suggest. It can be difficult to match things like sharpening perfectly from screen to print without doing some print tests.

- Glossy paper would give you a little more dynamic range and help with the "pop" in this type of image if Blurb offers it.
- There are two main things you can do to bring out the stars: increase their brightness relative to the dark sky and increase the sharpness.
- You might also want to boost the saturation a little bit, while being careful not to clip (saturate beyond the sRGB or Blurbs custom color profile).

Here is an example.


Here are what my layers looked like in Photoshop:


For the first "Brighten Stars w/Curve" layer, I pulled the white point in until a good portion of the stars were clipping to pure white. Then I selected a bright non-star area (like the snow in the mountains or the light area in the center horizon and pulled that tone back close to where it was originally on the curve.

All of these adjustments are subjective and you need to find you own combo and strength that you are comfortable with. I clipped a good portion of the stars to pure white, as I mentioned, but if you feel there is some color in some of those stars that you want to retain, then you would apply a less-aggressive Curves adjustment.

Same thing with Unsharp Mask and this is where some print samples would be ideal. Too sharp and they are going to pop off the page too much and/or you will start to see pixel artifacts. Not sharp enough and they won't have the pop you are looking for.

I also boosted the contrast a bit to the left foreground and I added a bit of a foreground vignette to better lead the eye into the image. Again, both totally subjective.

I didn't address this in my example but boosting contrast and saturation in the sky/stars may start to bring out some noise and you may want to apply some noise reduction, being careful not to kill the sharpness of the stars with the NR.

You may also start to see some banding in the sky. Adding a small amount of fine noise may help that if it is absolutely necessary. It is likely though that banding will be more visible on-screen than in a print.

All of these things can be done in Lightroom as well.

Jan 12, 2013 at 01:06 PM

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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Need help with PP and printing of star/night photo

Thanks, Eyeball. I'll work your ideas in LR and see how it goes.

I won't be printing this photo in Blurb again. Nor will I be able to do test prints from home.

What site do people use for printing? I'm willing to pay a premium if the results are tangibly better.

Jan 13, 2013 at 01:55 AM

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