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A Complete Multi-Platform Guide to Astrophotography Processing

If you’ve ever thought about getting into astrophotography, you may have been dissuaded by the task of correctly processing your own images. There are countless guides online using a variety of programs, but they are either expensive and difficult to use, or are only available for a single operating system.

I’m not talking about processing milky way shots with a wide-angle lens here, but true deep sky objects, nebulae, galaxies, etc. That kind of processing requires specific programming, of which our traditional tools (like Lightroom and Photoshop) are woefully incapable. You may have heard of programs like Deep Sky Stacker, or PixInsight, which are extraordinary in their own right, but one is Windows only, and the other has a considerable price tag. Is there a happy medium? A program that is easy to use, works on MacOS and Windows, and is free?

Absolutely. And I have been urging people to consider its use for the past couple of years. In this video, I talk about Siril, a free, multi-platform astrophotography processing software that eclipses its free competitors, and with its robust features, stands up to the paid ones as well. What’s remarkable about Siril, is that it checks so many boxes for the hobbyist, while having features that even seasoned astrophotographers can only find in paid programs, or action sets and plugins for Photoshop. The first half of this video is dedicated to using Siril and its many processes, of which can only be found in the more advanced astro processing programs. Tools like photometric color calibration, background extraction, subtractive chromatic noise reduction, and automated stretching, are necessary steps in astro processing, but until recently, have not been available outside of paid programs. The second half of the video is dedicated to processes using only the tools in Photoshop, no extra plugins or action sets are required. 

I made this video as a project to see if it was possible to get similar results using free software. The requirements were that it had to be easy to use, free, and could work on both MacOS and Windows. I realize that Photoshop is only one of those things, but most people who get into this hobby are photographers looking to expand the use of equipment they already own, and an overwhelming number of us already use Lightroom and Photoshop. But if you don't have an Adobe subscription, Siril can work for you too, because it can also process images, and there isn’t an absolute need to venture into another image processor after you have finished with Siril. 

Scott Donschikowski's picture

Scott Donschikowski is a professional photographer and educator with over 11 years of experience leading a variety of photo workshops around the world. He specializes mainly in landscape, wildlife, and astrophotography. He is also active on YouTube where he makes tutorials sharing his photographic knowledge.

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