Processing Makes all the Difference!
I do my image processing in Maxim software.  A recent conversation with Dean Jacobsen ended with Dean offering to work on one of my M42 images using his PhotoShop techniques.  The results are here for you to examine.  Same data, different images.  Which do you like best?
The raw data.  Ten 1-minute exposures with no processing,
Dean's processing in PhotoShop
Thanks Dean!
My processing in Maxim - histogram stretch and unsharp masking
Dean's processing notes are below.
Hi Bill, here's my first attempt at one of your M 42 images.  I hope you like it.  It is the combination of three separate layer mask operations as discussed by Jerry Lodriguss in the January 2001  issue of Sky & Telescope.  What I did was to create three separate layer masks to progressively  paste in non-burned out portions of the same image over burned out parts.

1) I first processed the original image to bring out the faint outer details.  However, the interior was burned out,

2) I then used the layer mask technique to layer in another copy of your original image over the burned out portion which filled in some of the burned out area.

3)  This technique was used two more times to gradually fill in the data all the way down to the Trapezuim stars.

This is the advantage of Photoshop.  You can't do this type of processing
in any of the CCD software.

Dean Jacobsen
Orange County Astronomers