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Eclipse time-lapse - Photoshop auto-align doesn't work

Community Beginner ,
Apr 14, 2024 Apr 14, 2024

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I took about 200 shots of the Sun during the recent US eclipse event, with the idea of creating a time-lapse. Snce I was not using siphitcated gear that could keep the Sun centered in the frame (just my DSLR mounted on a tripod), each of my photos has the Sun in a sighly different location in the frame. I thought it would be easy to auto-align all the frames (at leat most of them) since what could be simpler than aligning a brigh disk (or part of it) set against a black background. Boy was I wrong! Photosohop complains that there is not enough overlap (really?). Does anyone know of a workaround to acomplish the alignement of this many photos in less than 1 hour? I have thought of some brute force ways, but none of them apear to lend themselves to automation. 

 

 

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Actions and scripting , macOS , Windows

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Adobe
Community Expert ,
Apr 16, 2024 Apr 16, 2024

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could you upload 3-4 pics so we can try it?

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LEGEND ,
Apr 16, 2024 Apr 16, 2024

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Just do this yourself. Set a couple of guides and drag the layers one by one into place.

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Community Expert ,
Apr 16, 2024 Apr 16, 2024

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quote

Just do this yourself. Set a couple of guides and drag the layers one by one into place.

By @Lumigraphics

 

They’re looking for an automated way because they said they have about 200 of them…I can sympathize with avoiding that much manual mouse work! 🙂

 

If it turns out that there is no way to do this except manually, it would be worth seeing if the Difference mode method might be a faster way to do it precisely (set upper layer to Difference mode, when the subject turns black it’s aligned, then set upper layer back to Normal). It sill would not be any fun to do that 200 times, but with keyboard shortcuts it can go faster. In fact I can use all keyboard shortcuts for the demo below: Select Previous Layer (Option [ ), Difference (Option-Shift-E), Nudge (arrow keys), then when aligned return blend mode to Normal (Option-Shift-N) and repeat on next layer up (Option [ ).

 

Photoshop layer align Difference sun.gif

 

Unfortunately it does seem that the Auto-Align code in Photoshop wants to align along edges, as the Photomerge panorama stitching code does, and doesn’t pay any attention to the center. I tested this by drawing layers with the same a hard edged white circle on a solid black background. Photoshop gave me the same error…it could not see and align the very simple and obvious identical subject in the center of each layer, and was looking for overlapping edge areas to align. That is too bad.

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New Here ,
Apr 16, 2024 Apr 16, 2024

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I am having the exact same issue.

 

I tried cropping the images to increase the overlap - and it did run the auto align, but when I started looking at the layers they were not aligned at all. 

 

The issue with doing it manually (aside from the amount of labor) is that even being a tiny bit off is going to ruin the end product by making it look choppy instead of smooth. 

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Community Expert ,
Apr 16, 2024 Apr 16, 2024

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The Difference method shown above can help ensure the most precise alignment because you get a very clear view of how aligned the layers are, although it’s still manual and tedious to do with many layers.

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Community Expert ,
Apr 16, 2024 Apr 16, 2024

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If what you eventually want is to magnify the eclipse portion so that most of the frame is cropped out, there is possibly an easier alternative to aligning the layers one by one…

 

1. Apply the adjustments to the frames as needed, do not attempt to align them, then bring all of the frames into any video editor that supports keyframing (including the video Timeline in Photoshop itself, if that is where you want to generate the time-lapse).

 

2. Use the video editor’s Position or Transform key frames to animate the position of the entire animation (video group, if done in Photoshop) so that it appears that the eclipse is not moving. This may require making the motion path as a slight arc. But for the moon, that should not take more than two or maybe three Bézier keyframes.

 

3. Crop down to the final pixel dimensions, with the eclipse in the center. It should look like a stationary eclipse.

 

Step 2 may be faster and simpler if you use a video editor with visual effects, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Adobe After Effects. You can try using a video stabilization or motion tracking feature to automatically lock down the position of the moon for you in one or two clicks. Those apps also have more and better video rendering options than Photoshop does.

 

The example below shows using the Warp Stabilizer effect in Adobe Premiere Pro to keep a moving time-lapse subject stationary in a cropped video frame, by setting Warp Stabilizer to No Motion. (In the example below I probably don’t need to use the Subspace Warp option for Method, for faster processing I can probably just set Method to Position.)

 

Premiere Pro moon stabilize.gif

 

(The moon looks a little posterized only because the forum software is not kind to animated GIF. The GIF I uploaded looks fine.)

 

Manual keyframing may be enough if the reason you need alignment is only because the moon and sun were moving while the camera was locked down. If you need alignment because the camera was repositioned between shots, then an automatic stabilization feature would be better at canceling out camera movement.

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