Quite literally, as the name suggests, image averaging is a technique used by photographers to stack multiple images on top of one another to average them all together. This is done to reduce noise or simulate motion blur. Usually, the images in a stack are taken in the same camera position under uniform camera settings.
The Mechanism of Image Averaging
Image averaging improves image quality drastically as it addresses the random noise appearing within the photograph. Fortunately, the noise pattern isn’t correlated in each picture taken under the same settings, i.e., a pixel appearing bright in image A may be dark in image B or vice versa. When multiple images are averaged together, the bright and dark pixels balance out to reduce the total level of noise. The more the images used during averaging, the lesser the noise and sharper the image outcome. Note: if the subject or camera moves between shots, chances are the image will appear blurry.
Using Image Averaging
Image averaging is particularly helpful under situations such as:
1. Small Camera Sensor
The problem with a tiny camera sensor is that there’s a greater probability of high levels of noise in the photos you take, even at base ISO. With image averaging, the noise level can be improved significantly by simulating a lower base ISO even on smaller camera sensors. This method is readily used in smartphones to improve image quality in low light.
2. Long Exposure
Contrary to popular belief, motion blur can sometimes be used to your benefit, especially when you don’t have a neutral density filter. The more images you snap and utilize for image averaging, the smoother the long exposure effect is.
3. The Milky Way
Image averaging allows you to capture several intense details in the night sky, allowing you to capture the Milky Way with the most basic camera equipment. The more images you average, the more significant the improvement in the detailing of the night sky shall be.
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