If we are lucky, we can see faint sources of light, the bright light from the moon and a nearby planet on a clear night. The stars can be seen with the help of the best cameras. Even the best telescopes and best binoculars can't reveal all the subtle colors and patterns that post- shoot editing can.

Photo editing apps can bring out the hidden elements in your photos, transforming them into masterpieces. It isn't cheating to use the best photo apps. It's just another way of polishing the finished product.

It's still a form of editing even if the photographer isn't using any apps. Photo editing software has become more popular in the digital photography community.

When it comes to the specific requirements of Astrophotography, there are a number of different photo editing apps that need to be considered, with varying abilities and different tools. Some off-the-shelf software can be modified to meet the needs of Astrophotographers. The best photo editing apps are listed here.

Adobe Lightroom: Best photo editing app overall

Adobe Lightroom review: image shows adobe lightroom layout

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

A raw image organizing, cataloging, and developing app aimed at professionals who can dump their memory cards into it at the end of the day and quickly get a catalog of the day's shooting with facial recognition has been released. They can rate and search files to find the best one. Many other editing apps have the same thing.

The develop module can be used to make the raw files better. The user has control over a lot of things. Vignetting and distortion can be smoothed out with the option to do so. A high-quality image can be watermarked, exported and shared from here.

It is possible to use a different version of the program. It's non-destructive and you're left with your original file as a kind of digital negative rather than overwriting it. Your changes are only permanent when you export an edited image.

Astrophotographers should use raw files because of the increased color depth captured. All 300 of your star trail images can be loaded in at the same time and then exported to another app for stacking.

Adobe Photoshop CC: Best for large projects

Adobe Photoshop review: Image shows the software being used on a picture of the desert.

(Image credit: Future)

The interface of other image-editing software is modeled on the one inPhotoshop CC. The app is used extensively around the world and is a great tool for the photographer.

For example, if you want to separate the sky from the land, you can choose only the sky in an image. The subject of a photo can be accurately selected if a menu option is chosen. It can be created manually if you prefer.

You can use layers to create complex creative effects. Think of them as a stack of sheets that are ready to go on a projector. For something like a star trail image that combines hundreds of slightly different photos, or reveals the soft light of a nebula from many stacked frames of the same thing, layers are essential.

Affinity Photo: Budget option for astro enthusiasts

An astro image being edited in Affinity Photo

(Image credit: Chiat Goli/Ian Evenden)

Adobe's selection and layer method of photo editing is applied directly to night-sky images through the Astrophotography Stack persona. The personas are a way of reconfiguring the user interface for specific tasks, it has one for exporting images, another for decoding raw files, and so on.

This means you can import light and calibration frames into the app and then stack them at the click of a button, ready to be moved to the main photo persona for color editing and image sharpening. It is possible for advanced users to manually choose the pattern used during raw decode or reject those with star trails.

The Remove Background filter is a nice feature. The sky between the stars will return to black if a background color cast is in your images.

Luminar AI: Best for speedy editing

Luminar AI review: image shows image editing software

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Skylum has a different approach to image-editing than Adobe and other software houses. It prefers to give you a series of pre-set looks that you can apply to your image, scale them to achieve the level of intensity you want, and even apply these looksselectively. It's easy to change the entire image or just the sky. You can use artificial intelligence to alter your pictures in ways you might not have thought of.

The traditional image-editing tools are not the application's core function. It also suffers from a bit of confusion with the addition of the recently announced but not yet available Luminar Neo. In an online briefing, the company insisted that Neo is not its replacement, despite the fact that the company'retired'Luminar 4.

It depends on what you want. The company's flagship product, Neo, will bring a new editing engine and the ability to create more refined images to the table. Before you make any downloads, be sure to read up on exactly what you're buying.

PhotoDirector 13: Best for beginners

PhotoDirector 13

(Image credit: Andy Hartup)

We must surely be approaching the limit in the number of ways an image file can be poked, prodded, shrunk, stretched, and generally manipulated. Despite this, we're sure the next version will have more tools and functions, but it makes you wonder how many more features can be squeezed into one app.

This may not be a good thing for an astronomer. PhotoDirector 13 is a beginner-friendly application that can turn its hand to editing just about any image, but its attempts to appeal to as many people as possible make it hard to find the right tools for editing your night-sky shots.

For this, it's a one-off fee much like its rivals but you can also purchase a subscription version which is more expensive but it gives you a generous 50GB of cloud storage for the duration of your subscription

Adobe Photoshop Elements: Best for amateurs

Adobe Photoshop Elements review: Image shows filter options on a dog photo.

(Image credit: Lauren Scott)

Elements is a scaled-back, beginner-friendly version of a popular photo editing program. The way you pay for it is vastly different. The Creative Cloud apps are subscription software. If you stop paying, the software will stop working and you won't be able to use it. The payback is that you get the latest version of the application with bug fixes and continuous updates.

You pay a one-off fee with Elements, which also has a video-editing brother. There will be a new version of the app that you will need to purchase again if you want to use any new features. If you want to buy Elements, you need a good reason. Maybe it's the app's ability to teach you image editing through its Guided mode, or maybe it's the fact that you can keep your software free of charge.

Even though the layer and selection approach is almost exactly the same here, there's not much to attract a specific photographer.

ACDSee: Best for organization

A photo of an American blackbird being edited in ACDSee software

(Image credit: Ian Evenden)

If you're shooting raw files, ACDsee offers raw image processing, so you won't need a separate app, and the Ultimate version has layers for you to stack images with. The Advanced Lighting EQ tool can be used to bring out the best in the night sky.

ACDsee is a good choice for a general-purpose image editor. It has a catalog management interface that is similar to Lightroom and is split into a series of modules. Between the main edit module and the develop module there are a lot of tools you can use to improve your night sky snaps.

Corel PaintShop Pro: Best for learning techniques

A boat under the stars, being edited in Paintshop Pro software

(Image credit: Ian Evenden)

Paintshop Pro is a member of the image-editing club. There's raw image support, and it's starting to get the kind of artificial intelligence and content aware tools that can make impressive differences to Astro photos.

Night-sky shots don't get the same amount of attention as underwater photos because the app has a specialized workspace for editing underwater photos. Even if they aren't specifically tailored to this kind of photography, plenty of tools and effects can be used to improve your images. It's true of its noise reduction tools. Night sky photography can involve pushing the camera's ISO to an uncomfortable level.

DxO Photolab: Best for noise reduction

DxO Photolab 4 review: image shows DxO Photolab 4 software

(Image credit: Jason Parnell-Brookes)

Photolab is a digital darkroom and has one feature that will be music to the ears of an astronomer. The noise reduction and haze-reducing Clearview tools can help improve the contrast and color saturation of your images. It's possible to smooth out the distortion added to images by camera lens with comprehensive lens correction.

You have to shoot in raw. Some people find the extra strain on their computer's processor and the need for more storage space to be more convenient than the additional color depth provided by these files.

If you're an advanced user, you'll be able to install Photolab as a plug-in for Lightroom, so you can spend most of your time there, but then transfer over to Photolab to use its amazing artificial intelligence tools.

Captire One 21 Pro review: image shows image editing software

(Image credit: Future)

Capture One Pro's specialty is tethered and studio photography, which is an app that follows the same template as the one in the Adobe software. The high quality of its decoding is noted. It's compatible with a wide range of other image formats.

It's aimed at the professionals, however, once you've got to grips with it, it's uniquely powerful. It has a learning feature that makes it less intimidating for beginners by giving them a set of in-camera instructions.

It's expensive to capture one. It's probably not worth it unless you're a studio pro and you can get two or more of the other apps for the same price.