Enhancing a Moon Photograph

Recently I was rummaging through my collection of 2016 astrophotography images for submission to the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) Calgary Centre’s imaging contest.

I have to admit, the collection of images was few which indicates either the weather was not favourable for astrophotography or I already had other plans for the days that were clear.

I found this image of the Moon I took mid-May.  I was pleased with the exposure, the seeing crater details, and the bright streaks of material (called ejecta) coming from some of the “newer” craters.

Original Image (Canon T4i mounted on Lunt Engineering 80mm refractor telescope)

As I viewed the image on my computer, it made me thing about the images I would see in astronomy magazines or on astronomy websites.  Since the image was originally taken in .jpg large mode, I knew I had limited data to work with.  I usually shoot most of my images in RAW unless I plan to create a timelapse movie.  Then it is easier to work with .jpg images.

Note: the following procedures assume you know the basics of using Adobe Photoshop.  I use Photoshop Elements 13.  From this point forward I will be using BOLD font to represent a menu or option within Photoshop.

I had learned how to use the High Pass filter in Photoshop Elements to help improve detail in a photograph.  So I thought I would give it a try.

To use the High-Pass filter you have to first create a copy of your Background layer.

Original image in Photoshop editing window

The easiest method for copy your Background layer is to right click on the layer and select Duplicate Layer…

Your screen should look similar to below.

Background Copy layer is created

The next step is to select Filter on the menu bar followed by Other filters and then select High Pass.  The following control panel will appear.

High Pass control panel

You have to be very careful when adjusting the Radius setting.  If the radius is set too high, noise will be introduce into the image.

To adjust the setting click and hold the button on the slide bar and adjust the value up or down.  I prefer to start with the lowest value and then slowly increase the radius.  The High Pass control has a preview window that allows you to see the level of detail.

Never go beyond 5.0 pixels.  My experience shows anything higher than this will introduce unwanted noise.

Use the slider to adjust the radius setting

Once you are happy with the level of detail click OK to accept the changes.  Your editing window will now look similar to below.

Editing window before changing the background copy to an overlay layer

Remember you have only applied the High Pass filter to the background copy.

The next step is to change the background copy from a Normal layer to an Overlay layer as per below.

Changing the background copy layer to from Normal to Overlay

Once the Overlay is applied your image look similar to below.  Before you make any additional changes I recommend you use the “eye” icon in the Background copy layer to show and hide the layer.  This will allow you to see the before and after affects of the High Pass filter.

If you are happy with the results then flatten the image.

Image after apply the High Pass layer to the original background layer

Now that I have the level of detail I want, the next step is to convert the image from full colour to black and white.  I find Moon images in black and white have better contrast thus further enhancing  the level detail.

To alter the image I use the Enhance menu and select Convert to Black and White.

Controls for converting an image to black and white

I played with each of the options under the style and found that the Infrared Effect works best for the Moon.  I haven’t played with the Intensity levels for Red, Green, or Blue or for the Contrast.  Click OK to save the changes and then save the image with a new file name.

Now that you have made all of these changes, lets see what the final outcome looks like.

The first image is the original and the second image is the final result.

Original Image


Final Image

As you can see, there is better detail for the craters, mountain ranges, and the contrast between the ejecta material and the dark lava fields is enhanced.

So get out there and use your telephoto lens or camera and telescope combination to take images of the Moon and use the described procedures in this blog to enhance your photos.

Good luck and clear skies!