milky way processing in darktable, looking for feedback

Hi everyone, I’m doing lots of milky way shooting these days.I’ve found that when I use the tone mapping module it seems to distort too much. I’ve mostly landed on a process flow like this:

  1. set white balance
  2. exposure, use a parametric mask to edit just the sky, then crank it up so the stars pop
  3. lens correction for my Sigma Art 14mm 1.8 Lens on my Nikon D850
  4. contrast, brightness, saturation: add about 10% contrast, a tiny bit of saturaton and in most cases use brghtness to darken the image slightly

Thoughts? Suggestions? Other approaches I should consider?

I’ve attached a RAW image and a JPG from after the process flow above

Thanks in advanceDSC_3956.NEF (47.0 MB)


I’m no astro-photographer, but your results look very nice to me.
On 100% zoom I notice slight star trails, but that’s only for pedantic pixel-peepers.
The composition is compelling and the clouds add some interest.
What I particularly like is that you used only darktable (and not specialist astro-software and image-stacking), and yet got such a magnificent result.
I also have gear envy reading the spec of your glass :slight_smile:

Thanks for sharing!

Thanks, I’m finding that in camera exposure is critical, with a good exposure in the camera I need minimal editing for a nice image

Please assign a license to your raw file.

RAW file is licensed under the creative commons license

I thought your file was a bit underexposed, so I cranked the exposure and then used Filmic RGB.

DSC_3956.NEF.xmp (10.0 KB)


Here’s my attempt. I also thought it was underexposed. I tried to bring out details in the foreground. There’s a little bit of red airglow below the Milky Way that given extra exposure jumps out. I applied the Orton Effect on the Milky Way using the soften module to brighten and make it more cloud-like.

DSC_3956.NEF.xmp (18.9 KB)


Nice, I like that, I’ll read up on the Orton Effect. Thanks!

Here’s my go at it.

I don’t profess to being true to nature. :slight_smile:

DSC_3956.NEF.xmp (9.8 KB)