Shooting Stars – Part III

Star trail images show the motion of the stars over a period of time. There are two methods to get a star trail shot:

  • You can do a single, very long exposure of 45-90 minutes (or more) at lower exposure settings allowing the camera to record in one image the motion of the stars across our sky.
  • Using the ‘stacking’ method (right), you continuously take shorter 30-second (+/-) exposures at regular star shot settings over that same 45- to 90-minute period and combine the resulting images in Photoshop to create the illusion of the single, long exposure.

Both methods have their positives and negatives. Stacking can succeed in challenging light situations that the long exposure would get overexposed, and also allows for higher ISO to be used which is better at picking out more stars from the sky, resulting in a more heavily star-saturated image. But, single long exposure star trails have a cohesion in the final image that stacking cannot achieve.

An online search for ‘stacking star trails’ will provide links to download Photoshop actions that will automatically do all the layering work for you to make a complete star trail image. To use either method, you need a cable release or timer remote.

Shooting Stars - Ben Canales

© Ben Canales

Ben lives on the West Coast of the USA and spends most of his free time photographing stars.


  • Canon EOS 5D Mk II
  • Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8
  • Head torch
  • Manfrotto 190XProB tripod
  • Cable release
  • Extra jacket
  • Coffee
  • 5x HR Energy shots

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Shooting Stars - Part II
  3. 3. Shooting Stars - Part III
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