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I started with Deep Sky Stacker and then editing in GIMP (it’s like photoshop) only a year ago! Both are free.

I produced my very first image, which was of the NA nebula NGC7000, using this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSxdHrO0zfU

1733921827_07c-13-12-21-NorthAmericaandPelicanNebula.thumb.JPG.14b2cda95cafd06e7c9df6cb78a62ecb.JPG

This was like my 10th attempt using the same data, it took me a while to grasp and understand what was going on. This was nothing but light frames, a 200mm lens and unguided on a star tracker. It’s not a great image at all, but I was amazed at the time. Still am a little!

I now use Siril for stacking and editing, Starnet V2 for star removal and GIMP for bringing the images back together and fine tuning. Again, all are freeware.

If you are prepared to pay, then Astro Pixel Processor is good and then the gold standard is Pixinsight. Both have a free trial, I tried APP and didn’t really get on with it but it’s generally very well recommended.

As a starting point, I would definitely use DSS for basics and GIMP to stretch your images, but I would really recommend stepping up to Siril, it really made a difference for me. It even has a guide to stack and edit your images, and is quite simple to get started with. You will need all types of calibration frames (unlike DSS) to make it work though using the scripts. Calibrations are a must, but when starting out I tended to skip them…to my detriment.
https://siril.org 

https://siril.org/tutorials/ (full image processing shows the basics).

I’m sure others with more experience than me will chip in, I’m certainly no expert, but I hope this helps!

Edited by WolfieGlos
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Siril is a good beginner friendly (sort of) astro processing software, its free and easy to learn since it doesn't have all that many features to confuse a new user.

Typical processing workflow after stacking would be:

1) Crop stacking artifacts out

2) Remove background gradients with the background extraction tool

3) Colour calibrate with Photometric color calibration or the manual one with a chosen white balance but there you have to know what in the image is white for it to work

4) Stretch the image with Histogram transformation/Asinh stretch/both

 

After that your image is 90% done, and you might already be happy with it. You could export it to GIMP or Photoshop at this point for final tweaks in saturation and detail.

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