Image blend a starburst – N-Photo 149 video tutorial

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Starbursts can be a wonderful addition to your landscapes and night scenes. Set a narrow aperture, like f/22, point your lens towards any small, bright highlight, such as the sun or a street lamp at night, and it can become a beautiful star shape.

But the technique poses a dilemma. The narrow aperture results in diffraction, wherein light spreads out along the aperture blades, causing the pinpoints on the star – known as ‘diffraction spikes’. So in this instance, diffraction is our friend, but more often than not, it’s the enemy, because it also results in a softening of fine detail. So do we capture the starburst and settle for a softer scene, or prioritize image sharpness?

With a bit of simple image blending in Adobe Photoshop CC we can have the best of both worlds. We shoot one frame for the starburst, then another at a wider aperture nearer to the lens’ sweet spot for the rest of the scene. Then we blend them for a stunning starburst without compromising on image quality. 

However, with wider apertures we can compromise our depth of field. So if we want front-to-back sharpness, we may need another workaround. Here, after shooting for the starburst at f/22, we took two more frames at f/8, one focused on the distance, the other on the foreground, We blended all three for ultimate sharpness, along with that gorgeous sunstar for stunning results.

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James Paterson

The lead technique writer on Digital Camera MagazinePhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and N-Photo: The Nikon Magazine, James is a fantastic general practice photographer with an enviable array of skills across every genre of photography. 

Whether it's flash photography techniques like stroboscopic portraits, astrophotography projects like photographing the Northern Lights, or turning sound into art by making paint dance on a set of speakers, James' tutorials and projects are as creative as they are enjoyable. 

As the editor of Practical Photoshop magazine, he's also a wizard at the dark arts of Photoshop, Lightroom and Affinity, and is capable of some genuine black magic in the digital darkroom, making him one of the leading authorities on photo editing software and techniques.