Recently, I received a question from one of my students regarding what’s the right colour of the Milky Way.
I think it is a good question. It also triggered me to share the answer with you all, and how to get the right colour of the Milky Way.
We have seen countless photos of the Milky Way in different colour variation, orange, magenta, blue and even white, but which one is correct?
From Astronomy perspective, the colour of the Milky Way should be yellow and orange. Like the below photo.
However, it is okay to tweak the colour based on your own artistic taste, to create a beautiful photo with a unique look, and better colour tone. I always believe photography is more than just capturing photos; it is about creating artwork.
To adjust the colour of the Milky Way, usually, I would start with setting the colour right first and then make a little bit adjustment to add in more magenta or blue.
I use Adobe Lightroom to make the colour adjustment. You can do the same using Adobe Camera Raw on Photoshop, or any other software like Luminar.
I’m going to use this RAW photo to show you how I find the right adjustment for the colour of the Milky Way.
P.s. for the purpose of this demonstration, I have adjusted the Color temperature. 😛
Before I make any adjustment to Color Temperature and Tint sliders, I’m going to push both the Vibrance and Saturation sliders all the way to the max first.
Here’s how the photo looked like with both Vibrance and Saturation at the max value.
Obviously, the colour looked awkward, but no worry, we are going to revert the adjustments after this.
That the photo has a massive blue colour cast, let’s try to warm up the photo by adding a bit more yellow. Just drag the Temperature slider toward the right.
Observing the change of the colour when moving the slider, when the slider reached a certain point, you should be able to see the colour of the Milky Way started to separate from the sky.
I think the photo is a bit too greenish. Let’s try to reduce some green by adjusting the Tint slider. This also helps to further separate the Milky Way from the sky.
Here’s how the photo looked like after the adjustment.
Once we have a good separation between the Milky Way and the sky, it is time to reset both the Vibrance and Saturation sliders.
Now you have set the colour of the Milky Way right. You may feel that the photo looked plain, this is because your eyes already got used to the heavily saturated colour.
From here, you can apply any necessary adjustments and noise reduction to the photo. You can also add back a little bit Vibrance and Saturation to give a little boost to the colour.
Here’s the edited version of the photo, which I have performed the Noise Reduction, Color and Tonal Adjustments. Also, cropping. 🙂
That’s all for this blog post. See you next time! 😀