Photography is not just about taking that gorgeous shot – it’s often a labor-intensive process of editing an image to make it look even better, by using software such as Adobe Photoshop. And while it’s pretty common knowledge that images of models looking perfect are a result of heavy image editing that more often than not distort reality, this process also applies to other areas of photography, including space photography.
However, while the former is used to distort reality in order to promote certain standards that are often unreachable, using image editing software to enhance certain shots is necessary for the latter. Adobe, the software giant behind editing software such as Photoshop or Dreamweaver, has recently published an extensive blog post about how NASA and other space photographers make use of its software in order to provide us with those amazing shots of various galaxies that we don’t normally see. And since we can’t see them with the naked eye, it’s not hard to fathom that those images do go through some heavy editing of their own. However, the goal here isn’t to distort reality, but rather to give our eyes access to something that we normally wouldn’t have access to.
Sure, it’s not hard to see that Adobe’s blog post is a type of self-advertising, but that’s fine. The information found within the post is informative and interesting, and regardless of the image editing software used, it’s an interesting analysis of the process NASA employs in order to provide us with stunning views of the Milky Way or detailed photographs of how Mars looks like. The Mars rovers employed by NASA aren’t equipped with cameras that provide visual detail and can’t set up perfect shots on aligned horizons, but are rather equipped to observe elements of geology or landscape. Thus, there’s a certain degree of editing required to provide with an end-result that us, regular observers, can truly appreciate.
Similar editing is required for galactic images we often see published by NASA. Robert Hurt, visualization scientist at Caltech’s Infrared Processing and Analysis Center, explains that an important part of his job is “rendering the data images that are collected by the telescopes, followed by a final polish using Photoshop to create a publication-quality, photographic representation of what we see that is useful to the public and astronomers alike.” In other words, Mr. Hurt’s job is to edit images in order for us to see what normally isn’t there. “I basically take raw grayscale data from different parts of the infrared spectrum, and then remap them into visible colors—typically with red, green, and blue Photoshop layers—to create images that are accurately representative of the infrared colors that human eyes cannot see” he adds.
Overall, Adobe’s blog post is a very interesting explanation of the work being done on space photos behind the screen, rather than behind the camera, and I strongly encourage any fan of space photography to take a look at the blog post, found on Adobe’s official website.