About: A photographer, maker, and all things RC enthusiast. I love night photography and taking aerial drones footage.

Star Trails, are a collection of photos combined to give you a photo that shows how the stars move through the night. In this instructible, i will show you how to make one. One thing about them is that you're taking around 1000 (or more) photos and combining them just to get one image (which can seem like a lot of work.) But, most of the time, the resulting image is glorious and totally worth the effort.

Step 1: Equipment

For star trails, and really all long exposure photography, one of your greatest weapons is your tripod. This keeps your camera stable to avoid getting a blurred image. Next is is the camera (obviously). I use a GoPro hero 4 for my night photos, the wide angle lenses gives you lots of possibilities! Then a great place to shoot and a moonless night(I'll explain in a minute). Of course, you could use a DSLR, or other high end camera.

Step 2: Location/weather

When shooting night photography, make sure to have good stable ground. Location is very important you could have a lake in the background, trees, shoot it at a weird angle, have it looking straight up, the possibilities are endless. Be creative and do what you think will look the coolest in the end. Weather is also a big factor. While long exposure snow shots can look cool(see picture), its generally not a good idea for star trails. Rain also is not recommended. (Obviously, if its cloudy your not going to be seeing very many stars so that is another factor to consider.)

Following up on the snow pic. Due to the shutter staying open for longer periods of time than normal, the snow shows up as long streaks because of the light reflecting off of it.

Step 3: Why No Moon, Is a Good Moon

As you can see from the picture, when the moon gets in your star trail and is blended with the other pictures it becomes a big blurred object. To avoid this, try to keep the moon out of the shot. Or overlay it with another image.

Step 4: Settings!!

A huge thing is the settings. When i shoot star trails and night photos with the GoPro, i usually set the exposure to 20 or 30 seconds, depending on the area. If I'm in the middle of nowhere then twenty seconds is usually good. But if theirs some extra light then 30 will make the stars show better. When shooting with GoPro remember to set the mode to "night lapse" so it continues to take pictures. Remember to keep it still or you'll get blurry images. If your using a DSLR or other camera, you'll have to find some other type of timer or device to take the picture repeatedly. I typically will set the time to 30 seconds which means it will take a picture every thirty seconds. depending on how long I'm shooting for maybe a minute.

Step 5: Processing

After you've shot for about an hour to two hours (or longer) you'll need to get your camera and load the pictures onto your computer.(an obvious, but necessary step.) Then put it into whatever software you use for blending. i use StarStax which is a free image blending application. It was created by Markus Enzweiler and can be downloaded here: * Download the program and open it once in, you'll need to grab the pictures from the camera and insert them into the program. (follow my on picture instructions) (FYI, next to the process button is the save button.)

After processing you should get a picture that looks somewhat similar to my third image on the page.

* disclaimer: at the time of downloading this application worked like a charm and his website worked like a breeze. Use at your own risk , i am not responsible if something happens while using it.

Step 6: Editing! and Finish

Now comes the exciting part! Editing! This is where you really get to express your inner creativity! I will typically use Color Efex Pro 4 for editing, its an app from Google from the Nik Collection Suite. download: One of my favorite effects is the detail extractor .

Use this editor or your favorite one. You should now have a good looking star trail.

Thanks for reading!! I hope you learned something!

Please consider voting for me!

Happy comments are appreciated. If you think i forgot something please tell me in the comments! positive criticism is good.

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    9 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Thank you very much for making this. I've been looking for a good instructable that uses materials I already have.


    2 years ago

    I think I'm missing something here. Can't you make these photos with a single shot that has a long exposure? Does GoPro allow very long exposures (say, hours)? Wouldn't this technique replace the "blending" technique you used?

    2 replies

    Reply 2 years ago

    Any digital sensor open for longer about 30 seconds will get hot and cause more noise. The heat is not good for the sensor. Most DSLR cameras have a longest time of 30 sec for this reason.


    Reply 2 years ago

    Hello, thank you for your comment. No that would not replace the blending process. If you were to take one long exposure, (say for about an hour) you'd basically get a white image. When i set up a camera and set the exposure for about 30 seconds, you should get an image that looks like the one a added to this comment. all you see is the stars in as a little dot and a unblurred moon. when you take around a thousand of these images taken over the course of an hour and blend them, its like printing all them images out semi-transparent an stacking them on top of each other. You'd see all of those dots added together forming a line, like in the star trails. Of course the blending software is doing this to everything in the photo, even the clouds. Thats why it needs to be so stable so nothing moves except the stars and clouds.

    When you open the shutter for long exposure, its like the camera is moving in slow motion. Instead of just opening and closing really fast, its staying open longer to allow the light to build up giving you more of a picture rather than just blackness. but if it stayed open for an hour it'd just build up so much that you'd see a white blurry image.

    Hope that helps and is clearer,



    2 years ago

    I never knew you could take such awesome photos of the stars with just a GoPro! Crazy!

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    Thank you! Yeah GoPros are amazing little cameras!