Dark Frame Subtraction Tutorial - Fix Amp Glow!

August 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

One of the most frequent and annoying problems I face when doing long exposures at night is amp glow.  Amp glow is caused by two main factors: not capturing enough light and sensor heat.  The more light you capture, and the cooler the camera sensor is, the less noticeable amp glow will be.

A lens with heavy vignette will show more amp glow than a lens with minimal vignette.  Since less light is able to reach the corners, noise is exaggerated when the exposure or shadows are raised in post-processing.  By capturing more light, this noise is 'covered up' by light.

The Rokinon 14mm has an awful vignette, which prevents light from reaching the corners of the sensor.  The Nikon 14-24mm on the other hand, has a minor vignette; more light is able to reach the sensor.  As you can see in the comparison below, the Amp Glow is more exaggerated in the Rokinon photo.


Remove Amp Glow - Dark Frame Subtraction

The preferred method of removing Amp Glow is called a Dark Frame Subtraction.  As soon as you take the normal photo, put the lens cap on the camera and take another photo.  All the settings should stay the same.  This Dark Frame will capture the noise and heat levels on the sensor, as no light is actually reaching the sensor.  Once you have a Dark Frame, you can use it in Adobe Photoshop to remove the Amp Glow.

I have a few important points to make before we continue.

  1. Turn on Long Exposure Noise Reduction for both the normal photo and Dark Frame
    • This will remove Hot Pixels and make things easier later
  2. Do the exact same edits to the Dark Frame as to the normal photo
    • If both photos aren't edited exactly the same, you will have problems
  3. Increase the Luminance Noise Reduction in Adobe Camera RAW
    • Otherwise you will see millions of black specks - the noise in the dark frame
    • The black pixels disappear when the Noise Reduction is done properly

The photos below show how well the dark frame subtraction worked on three lenses: Nikon 14-24mm, Tamron 15-30mm, and Rokinon 14mm.  Every time I've tried doing a dark frame subtraction on the Rokinon, the image has always become too green.  I was happy to see the process finally worked as intended on the Nikon and Tamron.  


Tutorial Video

I created this video to clear up any lingering confusion on this process.  If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment and I'll do my best to help you out!



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