Major advantages of astrophotography stacking in Affinity Photo

Astrophotography workflows just became more streamlined with Affinity Photo 1.9’s addition of an Astrophotography Stack Persona. Let’s explore some of the app’s key advantages when it comes to stacking and retouching astrophotography images.

Affinity Photo 1.9 has not long been released and has brought with it a healthy mix of new features and quality of life improvements, but perhaps the most exciting addition for myself was the new Astrophotography Stack Persona.

I’m a keen amateur astrophotographer, so needless to say, I was very excited to try out the astrophotography stacking functionality when it first arrived in a beta build. I went out of my way to record six full-length workflow tutorials for launch, as I really want any astrophotographers who try the app to be able to take advantage of Affinity Photo’s benefits and not just adapt an existing workflow from certain ‘other’ software!

Tarantula Nebula as a bi-colour HaOIII composition

With that in mind, I wanted to illustrate some of Affinity Photo’s key features and functionality that can enhance astrophotography workflows, and hopefully give you some alternative ideas about how to approach the various techniques used in this type of image editing.

Please don’t forget to check out the various tutorials on the Affinity website or on YouTube. There are full-length workflow videos that cover stacking right through to final retouching, and videos that focus on specific techniques like background removal and colour equalisation.

Live filters

Live filter layers are one of Affinity Photo’s most powerful features and a major contributor to maintaining a non-destructive workflow.

Think of them as adjustment layers that apply filter effects instead—you can add them in your layer stack, composite them above or underneath other layers, change their parameters at any time, control their blending and also mask them.

Live Filters being used to apply star reduction and structure enhancement non-destructively.

If you wanted to have a completely non-destructive layer stack where no layer merging is required, here are just a few techniques you could apply:

Star reduction (Minimum Blur) Sharpening (High Pass, Unsharp Mask) Star glow (Gaussian blur with Overlay blend mode and blend ranges/opacity) Structure enhancement masked to just specific areas (Clarity) Live star and background masking (Procedural Texture) Luminance and colour noise reduction (Denoise) Mesh distortion and liquify effects (Liquify) Highlight brilliance (High Pass with a Hard Light blend mode)

… the list goes on! In particular, Affinity Photo’s Procedural Texture filter allows you to achieve all kinds of additional functionality if you’re handy with mathematics, and it is, of course, available as a live filter so you can apply it non-destructively.

Streamlined stacking process

The process of stacking your initial data along with calibration frames can be complex and also quite daunting for beginners.

Affinity Photo strikes a balance between offering enough customisable parameters for advanced users, yet keeping the interface lean and straightforward. At its most basic level, you simply add your light frames and calibration frames using the Type dropdown, click Stack and then apply your stacked result to move back to the main Photo Persona (workspace), where you can work on your image further.

The Astrophotography Stack Persona: lean and straightforward.

For more advanced stacking, you have control over settings and additional tools such as:

Stacking method: Sigma clipping with threshold/iterations, Average or Mean. File groups for

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