Software For Mac Os X

  

Astrophotography is closer to science than art, and there is no such thing as “getting it right in camera.” This means you cannot simply point the camera at the sky and snap away.

In astrophotography you cannot avoid post processing your images, so stacking and editing your images serves three main purposes:

  1. Reduce noise and deal with light gradients and vignetting.
  2. Improve signal to noise ratio.
  3. Reveal the faint details in the image.

Image stacking is the technique used to improve the signal to noise ratio, and it is the only noise reduction method that will boost the image details rather than smear them out.

In this article, we will discuss some of the most popular software available for astrophotography image stacking.

  • Audio, Video, Business and More Software for Mac OS X: Audio Editing Software WavePad is a powerful audio editor that lets you record, edit and add effects to mp3, music, voice and other audio files on your Mac easily. Download for Mac OS X Learn more about Mac audio editing software.
  • CleanGenius – free system optimization tool for Mac OS X, disk cleaner, uninstaller, device ejector, disk monitor. (freeware) CandyBar – system customization software (commercial) CDFinder – disk cataloging software (commercial) Compact Pro – data compression; DaisyDisk – disk visualization tool; Dashboard – built-in Mac OS X widgets.
  • The latest version of OS X features an elegant design, includes enhancements to the apps you use most, and enables your Mac and iOS devices to work together in new ways. Learn more about OS X; Safari extensions are a great way for you to add new features to Safari. Built by developers, Safari extensions use the latest web technologies.

The 'classic' Mac OS is the original Macintosh operating system that was introduced in 1984 alongside the first Macintosh and remained in primary use on Macs until the introduction of Mac OS X in 2001. Apple released the original Macintosh on January 24, 1984; its early system software was partially based on the Lisa OS and the Xerox PARC Alto computer, which former.

Note: Don’t miss the detailed video at the end of this article, It was created to help show you how to quickly start using some of the stacking software mentioned in this article.
Click here to skip to our Image Stacking Demo Video.

What Does Stacking Photos Mean?

The concept behind image stacking is simple, but to appreciate how it works, there are a couple of things we have to consider:

  1. A stack can be visualized as a pile of images all stacked one on top of the other;
  2. Each digital image is formed by a set of pixels, all having a certain value: dark pixels will have a lower value than the bright ones;

In the simplest form of image stacking, the pixels values for all images in the stack are averaged to produce a single image.

What is the purpose of stacking photos?

The result is a single image with improved signal to noise ratio, i.e., with better details and lower (random) digital noise and better details.

The scheme below illustrates the concept.

If the considered digital noise affects the pixel values randomly across the stack, then the result of averaging the stack is that the random component of the noise to the pixel value is significantly reduced.

ISO noise and Luminance noise and Chrominancenoise are examples of digital noises that are random.

The image below shows a real-life example from stacking 30 images from my Sony RX10 bridge camera taken at ISO 6400. As you can see, the original images showed a greater deal of noise (grain) than the stacked one.

The More Images You Stack, The Better

The more images you stack, the cleaner the resulting images are, as shown in the comparison below.

While Image stacking creates a cleaner image, it often softens the image: digital sharpening techniques are then used to recover sharp looking details.

Finally, bear in mind that the progression of image quality is not linear.

If stacking 4 images improves the image quality of 50% respect what you got by stacking only 2 images, to improve a further 50% the image quality from stacking 50 images, you may need to stack 300 images or more.

Image Stacking And Movement

If nothing moves between shots, like in the previous real life example, implementing image stacking is very simple: just group the images and average them to smooth out the noise.

With a moving subject, grouping and averaging the images will not only smooth out the noise, but also the subject itself.

This is the same principle for which long exposures of passing traffic and crowd result in a street image without cars nor people.

This effect is amplified with the number of images used, and the moving subject could simply disappear from the stacked image.

To resolve the issue, you have to align the images based on their content before stacking.

Due to image alignment, you may have to trim the edges of the stacked image to get rid of artifacts, but your target will not be lost.

Note that while in theory you can stack images of a static scene taken with the camera on a tripod, in reality, those images will probably differ at the pixel scale due to micro-movements. It is always beneficial to align the images before stacking.

How To Shoot For Exposure Stacking Your Images

For

Image stacking can be done with any camera and even camera phones and with images in both RAW and JPEG format.

Nonetheless, some things can be done to improve the final result:

  1. Lock the focus, so that the camera will not hunt for it between images. This will also help to keep the focus consistent through the shooting sequence.
  2. Keep the same settings, in particular shutter speed, aperture, and focal length: you don’t want to change the camera field of view during the sequence, nor the brightness of the images or the depth of field.
  3. If you are shooting on a tripod, disable image stabilization. If you want to shoot handheld, do so only for short sequences at very high shutter speed.

Image Stacking In Astrophotography

Related:Astrophotography Software & Tools Resource List

As said previously, image stacking is a standard technique implemented in any astrophotography editing workflow for,

  1. A star field from a fixed tripod.
  2. A deep sky object from a tracking mount.
  3. The Moon handheld.
  4. A starry landscape from a fixed tripod or tracking mount.

Every astronomy image will benefit from image stacking.

List Of Photo Stacking Software For Astrophotography

Here is a list of software used in astrophotography for image stacking.

Mac

Adobe Photoshop

Complete Image Editor Commercial – Subscription Plan Photography Bundle $9.99 / Month Mac OS X, Windows

Pro

  • Versatile
  • Available for Mac and Windows
  • In bundle with Adobe Lightroom CC, Bridge, Camera Raw, and web space
  • Many action packs and plugins available for astrophotography

Cons

Software
  • Subscription Plan only
  • Can’t be used to calibrate light frames
  • Stacking capabilities are somehow limited

If you are interested in photography, chances are you know Adobe Photoshop is the standard in the industry and does not need introductions.

With Adobe implementing a subscription plan for their applications, if you are using Lightroom CC for your everyday photography, your plan subscription will also include Photoshop CC and Bridge CC.

And for astrophotography, Photoshop is what you need. Lightroom cannot stack your images nor perform the histogram stretching, two crucial steps in the editing workflow for astrophotography.

In this article, we have already covered in detail how to stack astrophotography images with Photoshop.

Sequator

Deep Sky And Starry Landscape Stacker Freeware Windows

Pro

  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Fast
  • Suitable for both Starry Landscapes and Deep Sky images
  • Can create Star Trails
For

Cons

  • Windows only
  • Limited set of options
  • Not suitable for Planetary astrophotography

Sequator is an easy-to-use and intuitive astrophotography software for stacking both starry landscape and deep-sky images. It can also be used to create star trails.

While not as advanced as other stackers, it nonetheless allows you to calibrate your light frames with dark and flat calibration frames. It also allows you to remove light pollution, reduce noise, and perform other simple tasks on the stacked image.

Starry Landscape Stacker

Starry Landscape Stacker Commercial, $39.99 Mac OS X

Pro

  • Fast
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Mac Os X only
  • Does not read RAW files

If you are into starry landscapes and you are a Mac user, Starry Landscape Stacker is a must-have.

Easy to use, it allows you to stack and align the sky and the foreground independently by letting you easily mask the sky.

Unfortunately, the software lacks the support for RAW formats, thus forcing you to convert your RAW images in the more heavy TIFF format.

Aside from that, it works very fast and the final image is of good quality. You can also save the sky only, which is useful to further edit the shot in Photoshop or similar editors.

Starry Sky Stacker

Deep Sky Stacker Commercial, $24.99 Mac OS X

Pro

  • Fast
  • Easy to use

Cons

  • Mac Os X only
  • Does not read RAW files
  • Basic

Starry Sky Stacker is Starry Landscape Stacker brother and it has been created to stack deep sky astrophotography images.

As Starry Landscape Stacker, Starry Sky Stacker is very easy to use and intuitive, although very basic.

If you are a casual star shooter and a Mac user, this could be a good choice for you.

Deep Sky Stacker

Deep Sky Stacker Freeware Windows

Pro

  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Fast
  • Full light frames calibration
  • Features Comet stack modes
  • Can Drizzle
  • Many advanced stack options and methods available

Cons

  • Windows only
  • Post-processing is quite limited
  • Not suitable for Starry Landscapes nor for Planetary astrophotography

Deep Sky Stacker, better known as DSS, is arguably one of the most widely used software to calibrate and stack astrophotography images.

With DSS, you can fully calibrate your images with Darks, Flats, Dark Flats, and Bias calibration frames for the best results possible. Light frames are analyzed and scored by quality so that you can decide which percentage of best images you can stack (Best 75% by default).

A very interesting feature is that with DSS, you can easily combine images taken during different imaging sessions, to produce images of higher quality.

Autostakkert!

Planetary Stacker Freeware Windows

Pro

  • Free
  • Easy to use
  • Suitable for Planetary, Lunar and Solar images
  • Stack full planetary disk and lunar surface close-ups

Cons

  • Interface a bit confused
  • It does not offer wavelet sharpening
  • Windows only

Autostakkert!, also known as AS!, is a very popular free software among the solar system astrophotographers. With AS! it is easy to stack both images showing the full Planetary (or Lunar or Solar) disc and images showing lunar surface close-ups.

The interface is a bit confusing, particularly in the beginning, but it is easy to navigate through the different steps for the stacking.

Unfortunately, AS! does not offer wavelet sharpening, which is a widely used technique in planetary and lunar astrophotography. For this, you can load your stacked image in Registax, another freeware software for Windows only that, sadly, is now “abandoned-ware.”

Lynkeos

Planetary Stacker Freeware Mac OS X

Pro

  • Free
  • Has deconvolution and wavelet sharpening
  • It is probably the only freeware planetary stacker for Mac OS X

Cons

  • Not very intuitive
  • Somewhat slower than Autostakkert!

Lynkeos is perhaps the only freeware planetary stacker software for Mac OS X, sparing you from turning to Windows for using Autostakkert!.

The interface is quite intuitive to navigate, but not when it comes to performing the different tasks.

On the other hand, it offers a deconvolution method and wavelet sharpening, a must-have for a planetary stacker. Definitely worth having a look at it if you are a Mac user.

SiriL

Deep Sky Astrophotography Editor Freeware Mac OS X, Windows, Linux

Pro

  • Free
  • Cross-Platform
  • Active development

Cons

  • A bit convoluted and not as intuitive as other stackers

SiriL is a freeware, cross-platform, astrophotography package that will let you calibrate, stack, and develop deep sky astrophotography images.

While not as easy and intuitive as Sequator or DSS, it offers a lot of options and produces good results. There is an active community, and it is under constant development.

Astro Pixel Processor

Deep Sky Astrophotography Editor Commercial $60/Yr Renter License Or $150 Owner License Mac OS X, Windows, Linux

Pro

  • Full-grown astrophotography package
  • Fairly easy to use
  • Mosaics are created with ease and are of great quality
  • Active and constant development
  • Cross-Platform
  • 30-days Trial period
  • Affordable yearly subscription

Cons

  • Only for deep sky astrophotography
  • No Comet stacking mode

With Astro Pixel Processor (APP), you step in the realm of full-grown astrophotography packages, with many advanced options and methods to calibrate, stack, and post-process your deep-sky images.

Compared to PixInsight (PI), the software benchmark for the category, APP is cheaper and way easier to use, which makes it one of the best PI alternatives.

If you decide to buy it, you can choose between the renter’s license for $60/yr, to always get the latest version of APP, or the owner’s license for $150, but you will have to purchase the license again for major update releases.

PixInsight

Astrophotography Editor Commercial – €230+VAT Mac OS X, Windows, Linux

Pro

  • It has all you need for astrophotography
  • 45 days trial period
  • A lot of tutorials and information available

Cons

  • Expensive and without subscription plan
  • Extremely steep learning curve
  • Long and convoluted process
  • Needs a powerful computer

When it comes to astrophotography, PixInsight is the software of reference against which all others are measured. It offers everything you may possibly need to produce pro graded images, and it is objectively the best software in the field.

But user experience can be frustrating, as the learning curve is very steep, the editing is long and convoluted, and your computer must be quite recent and powerful to make it run smoothly.

The €230 + VAT price tag is also quite steep: sure it is worth every penny, but this makes PI be even more the software of choice for professional and keen amateur astrophotographers.

A Comprehensive Demo About Image Stacking

In this video, I show you how easy it is to wet our feet with image stacking.

This is particularly true if you use Starry Landscape Stacker, Sequator, Deep Sky Stacker and Autostakkert!, as I showed in the video below.

Conclusion

Image stacking is one of the crucial steps in the astrophotography editing workflow.

You’ll need the appropriate stacker for each type of astrophotography: starry landscapes, star trails, or deep-sky and planetary images.

In this article, we have covered the most popular astrophotography stackers available on the market, both freeware and commercial.

And while Windows users have the more extensive choice, some notable stackers are available for Mac and even Linux users.

How to get updates for macOS Mojave or later

If you've upgraded to macOS Mojave or later, follow these steps to keep it up to date:

  1. Choose System Preferences from the Apple menu , then click Software Update to check for updates.
  2. If any updates are available, click the Update Now button to install them. Or click ”More info” to see details about each update and select specific updates to install.
  3. When Software Update says that your Mac is up to date, the installed version of macOS and all of its apps are also up to date. That includes Safari, iTunes, Books, Messages, Mail, Calendar, Photos, and FaceTime.

To find updates for iMovie, Garageband, Pages, Numbers, Keynote, and other apps that were downloaded separately from the App Store, open the App Store on your Mac, then click the Updates tab.

To automatically install macOS updates in the future, including apps that were downloaded separately from the App Store, select ”Automatically keep my Mac up to date.” Your Mac will notify you when updates require it to restart, so you can always choose to install those later.

How to get updates for earlier macOS versions

If you're using an earlier macOS, such as macOS High Sierra, Sierra, El Capitan, or earlier,* follow these steps to keep it up to date:

  1. Open the App Store app on your Mac.
  2. Click Updates in the App Store toolbar.
  3. Use the Update buttons to download and install any updates listed.
  4. When the App Store shows no more updates, the installed version of macOS and all of its apps are up to date. That includes Safari, iTunes, iBooks, Messages, Mail, Calendar, Photos, and FaceTime. Later versions may be available by upgrading your macOS.

To automatically download updates in the future, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, click App Store, then select ”Download newly available updates in the background.” Your Mac will notify you when updates are ready to install.


* If you're using OS X Lion or Snow Leopard, get OS X updates by choosing Apple menu  > Software Update.

How to get updates for iOS

Learn how to update your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch to the latest version of iOS.

Learn more

Best Malware Removal Software For Mac Os X

  • Learn how to upgrade to the latest version of macOS.
  • Find out which macOS your Mac is using.
  • You can redownload apps that you previously downloaded from the App Store.
  • Your Mac doesn't automatically download large updates when it's using a Personal Hotspot.