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How to Take Moon Photographs

by Kevin

Introduction

You attempted to photograph the moon but were only able to capture a dazzling white blob in the sky. That’s fine! It’s difficult to take a nice, crisp shot of the moon, mostly because your camera doesn’t know how to accomplish it—automatic settings won’t work here. However, if you have all of the necessary equipment and know how to use it, you’ll be well on your way to producing moon photos that you’ll be proud of. We’ll even teach you how to utilize your phone’s camera if that’s all you have.

Getting the Best Lunar Photography Equipment

The greatest photos are usually taken using full-frame DSLR cameras. If photographing the moon becomes more than a passing interest for you, invest in a specialist camera. Cropped sensor Micro Four Thirds cameras also work nicely. [1] These cameras are expensive (about $2,000 unless you can locate one in excellent condition for less), so make sure you purchase one that can produce the photographs you desire. Look for a camera that has the following features:[2]

  • Manual adjustments are available.
  • A wide dynamic range is important.
  • The ISO range begins at 100 and goes up from there.

For close-ups, invest on a good telephoto or zoom lens. Landscape photographs with the moon in the backdrop are acceptable with your kit lens. If you want to concentrate on the moon, though, you’ll have to zoom in. Look for a lens with at least 200mm of focal length and an f/5.8 or f/8 aperture. [3]

  • In photography, lens quality is more crucial than camera quality—with the appropriate lens, even a cheap point-and-shoot camera may create stunning photographs. So, if you must pick between buying a camera and buying a lens, go with the more costly lens.
  • Looking for a vintage lens is one method to save money. However, bear in mind that using a vintage lens on a contemporary camera will need an adapter, which will increase the cost.
  • If money isn’t a problem, super-telephoto lenses with focal lengths of 400mm to 800mm are a good choice. These bad guys may be more expensive than your camera, but they’ll catch incredible details of the moon’s surface.

Purchase a tripod that can support the weight of your camera and lens. You’ll almost certainly need to update your tripod if you’ve invested in a good camera and a long telephoto lens. Calculate the combined weight of your camera and lens, and then seek for a tripod that can support 1.5 to 2 times that amount. You can be certain that your tripod will be sturdy when you install your gear this way. [4]

  • If you’re going to photograph across a long distance and don’t want to haul heavy equipment, invest in a portable tripod. However, if you’re only setting up in your garden, portability may not be an issue.

To eliminate camera wobble, use a remote shutter release. Although you’re already using a timer, the remote shutter release provides you a bit more control over the photo. It’s also the most effective approach to ensure that your camera is perfectly motionless and that your photographs are crisp. [5]

  • Check your camera’s user manual before purchasing a separate camera attachment. Many mirrorless camera manufacturers now provide free smartphone applications for remote shutter release. All you have to do is use Bluetooth to connect your smartphone to your camera.

To prevent blurriness on long exposures, use an equatorial tracker. An equatorial tracker is a tripod attachment in which you install the tracker on your tripod before mounting your camera on the tracker. It latches on to the location of whichever celestial body you choose, then adjusts for the Earth’s rotation to give you blur-free night sky images. [6]

  • If you’re merely going to photograph the moon, an equatorial tracker isn’t necessary—after all, it’s a rather large and brilliant object in the sky. However, if you intend on photographing the night sky in the future, particularly concentrating on various stars and planets, it’s necessary.

How to Set Up Your DSLR Camera to Photograph the Moon

Make the most of the largest lens you have. To photograph the moon, you don’t need a big telephoto lens. You may use the 18-55mm kit lens that comes with your camera, but you won’t get the same amount of detail, especially on the lunar surface. [7]

  • A telephoto lens with a focal length of 200mm or more gives you a lot more flexibility, allowing you to take a broader variety of photos.
  • Your camera settings aren’t affected by the size of your lens, but bear in mind that the larger the lens, the less light it lets in.

Turn off any camera settings that are set to automatic. Your camera just does not have any auto settings that will allow you to get a nice image of the moon. You’ll have to manually configure everything instead. Don’t be alarmed if you’re used to using a point-and-shoot camera. There are just three parameters to be concerned about: ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. [8]

  • Make sure that image stabilization (IS) is also switched off. You won’t need it since your camera will be on a tripod regardless.
  • You may use the automated or preset white balance settings. Because the moon is quite bright, particularly in the night sky, the default or daytime setting is sufficient. If any revisions are required, they may be made in post-production.

To decrease noise, set your ISO as low as it will go (graininess). Most DSLRs will go down to 100 ISO, which is exactly what you want. You’d need a higher ISO to pick up details if you were photographing anything else at night. If you want to concentrate on the moon, though, go as low as possible. [9]

  • Snap several images at a higher ISO to acquire a good shot of the foreground, then drop your ISO to take photos of the moon itself if you want to catch the moon rising or setting behind a landscape. In post-production, you may combine these photos.

Begin with an aperture of f/11. The aperture determines the size of the opening in the shutter that allows light into your camera. When you choose an f-stop of 11, you’re not allowing in a lot of light, therefore you’ll be able to see more features on the moon’s surface. [10]

  • Remember that the moon is much brighter than you believe it is, so you don’t need to let in a lot of light while concentrating on it. You may experiment with the f-stop to see what you get, although most lunar photographers like f/11.

Select a shutter speed of at least 1/100 of a second. The moon is a very brilliant object because it reflects the sun’s light, even though it doesn’t seem that way when seen with the human eye. Because a high shutter speed exposes the camera to more light, the moon’s details are clearer and it isn’t surrounded by a halo of light, it isn’t surrounded by a halo of light. [11]

  • Because the moon is brighter as it approaches fullness, you’ll want to change your shutter speed appropriately. You may go as fast as 1/200 second if you’re photographing a full moon.

Manually focus on the moon itself. You can also manually focus to infinity, but don’t use the infinite mark on your lens since it’s generally off. Try zooming in on a particular spot on the moon’s surface and adjusting the focus back and forth until the details are as crisp as possible. [12]

  • Finding the sweet spot might take some time—focusing is an art that requires some trial and error to master. Bring a white or silver marker with you while you practice so you may mark the spots you like so you can locate them fast again.

Taking Fantastic Moon Photographs

You’ll have more editing possibilities if you shoot in RAW. RAW captures almost all of the data that your camera captures, giving you a lot more to work with in post-production. Even if you’re not sure whether you’ll edit your photographs, it’s typically a good idea to shoot in RAW to keep the option open. [13]

  • The size of RAW files might vary greatly. If you’re planning a longer session, ensure sure you have enough SD cards for your camera or phone storage. It’s also possible to save images to the cloud.

Locate an area with the least amount of light pollution. If you travel away from big towns and other sources of artificial light, you may get a better view of the night sky in general, and the moon in particular. The contrast between the moon and the sky should ideally be as stark as feasible. [14]

  • More rural locations also provide cleaner air in general, with less haze than places close to major cities.
  • On a clear, cool night, you’ll get the greatest close-up images of the moon. With cloud cover, you can still capture some fascinating images of the moon, but you won’t be able to see much detail on the surface.

Instead than focusing on the moon itself, concentrate on anything that is lighted by it. Even if you don’t have the greatest equipment, this is a terrific method to produce an unique and artsy-looking shot. It’s most effective during a full moon, when the moon is brightest. [15]

  • You might, for example, concentrate on a structure or tree that is illuminated by the moonlight. Another comparable alternative if you live near a big body of water is to concentrate on the moon’s reflection in the water.

Use a fascinating landscape to frame the moon rising or setting. [16] When the moon is rising or setting, it is at its biggest in the sky, and the sky is at its brightest relative to the moon, making it much simpler to photograph the moon’s surface. [17]

  • You might, for example, photograph a beautiful full moon rising over a metropolis if you can locate a vantage point with enough height and distance to avoid light pollution.

To increase the amount of detail in your photos, stack them. You may use photo-editing software to overlay many virtually similar photos. This allows you to create a higher-resolution final picture. [18]

  • Shooting video rather than static photographs may help since you’ll receive hundreds of frames per second from which to choose the sharpest to stack.
  • You may also use many images shot at various times to create a collage. If you want a shot of the moon rising over a certain scene, this is a terrific method. You can precisely capture the scenery, then tweak your camera’s settings to properly catch the moon. When you stack those photographs together, it seems to be one fantastic shot.

To take your shot to the next level, use post-processing. If you’ve ever tried digital photography, you know that getting the picture is just half the battle. The rest occurs once you’ve uploaded your picture to your preferred editing program. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to taking moon photographs, so play around and find what works best for you. [19]

  • When in doubt, consider converting the picture to black and white—even the most shabby color images may benefit from it.

Using Your Phone to Take Moon Photos

Using a dry, lint-free cloth, wipe your lenses clean. Your phone’s lenses collect up a lot of dust without you even realizing it, and all that dust might cause your picture to distort. Use the microfiber cloth that comes with your phone. Otherwise, any comparable fabric will suffice. [20]

  • If you have persistent debris on your lens, gently wipe it away with a cotton swab and a drop of lens cleaning (the sort you’d use for reading glasses) or water, then dry the lens with your microfiber towel.

Turn off the flash and auto-focus on your camera. You’ll need your phone’s camera to be as manual as possible to snap a decent image of the moon. Play around with the settings and see what you can come up with. Basically, any auto functions you see should be turned off. [21]

  • Set your ISO as low as possible and your aperture as wide open as feasible if your phone’s ISO and aperture settings allow it. Begin with a high shutter speed and gradually reduce it as required.
  • There are also picture applications that offer you greater control over different settings or enable you to take better night photographs. Some of these applications are free, but you’ll have to pay for the majority of them. [22]

Use a tripod or a sturdy item to keep your phone steady. Although tripods for cellphones are available, you may make do with a book, a wall, or any other stable item if you don’t have one. The most crucial thing is that you snap the image with your phone moving as little as possible. [23]

  • If you have no choice but to hold your phone, brace yourself and hold your breath while taking the photo. When you’re holding your phone, keep your elbows in and brace them against your body for more support.

To set the focus, tap the moon on your screen. Concentrate your attention on the moon, then dim the light as much as possible. On your screen, the moon should seem gray, not white. You may also try zooming in a little bit, but keep an eye on your definition. The picture will grow more fragmented as you zoom closer. [24]

  • When the moon is just rising or setting, you could capture the finest photographs around dark or morning. Your phone’s camera doesn’t have to cope with as much contrast since the moon isn’t that much brighter than the rest of the sky at these times.

To eliminate blurriness, use a picture timer. The disadvantage of utilizing your phone’s camera is that you must still touch it to snap the photo, which jostles your phone and causes the image to blur. You won’t have to worry about this if you use a timer. [25]

  • You don’t need any applications since most phone cameras have a built-in timer. Simply modify your camera’s settings such that it takes a few seconds after you’ve pressed the shutter button to actually take the photo.
  • Voice commands are available on certain phones, which may be used to improve stability and eliminate blurriness.[26]

For the greatest close-ups, mount your phone to a telescope. Your phone won’t be able to catch fine details of the moon’s surface on its own, but if you (or a friend) have access to a telescope, you can use it to give your phone a closer look. The simplest method to achieve this is to purchase a mounting kit (usually about $100) that will allow you to connect your phone to the telescope’s eyepiece. [27]

  • You may possibly snap a few images by just holding your phone up to the eyepiece, but this is really tough to perform and your shots will most likely come out fuzzy due to your hands trembling.

To get closer to the moon, use add-on magnifying glasses. You won’t obtain the same level of sharpness and fine detail with them as you would with a DSLR and telephoto lens. At the same time, you could obtain better photographs than you would with only your phone camera, and they won’t cost you as much as a telephoto lens for a DSLR. [28]

  • These might be a little tough to get on your phone the right way, so practice before your photography. To put the lens on, you may need to remove your phone cover.

To improve the quality of your photograph, edit it. The phone’s camera app probably contains most of the editing features you need, but you can also upload your photo to another app and edit it there. You can compensate for a number of flaws in your phone camera’s camera via editing. [29]

  • Converting your picture to black and white, much as with a DSLR, is a simple editing option that will remove a lot of the flaws that are more visible in a color photograph.

Warnings

It’s difficult to get a decent shot of the moon! Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t do it right the first time. Simply experiment with various settings and picture compositions until you find a photograph you like.

References

  1. Minoia, A., Verzosa, C., Andrea Minoia >, M. B., & Chad Verzosa >, M. B. (n.d.). How To Photograph the Moon (Best Gear, Settings & Tips 2022). ExpertPhotography. https://expertphotography.com/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  2. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  3. Minoia, A., Verzosa, C., Andrea Minoia >, M. B., & Chad Verzosa >, M. B. (n.d.). How To Photograph the Moon (Best Gear, Settings & Tips 2022). ExpertPhotography. https://expertphotography.com/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  4. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  5. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  6. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  7. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  8. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  9. Minoia, A., Verzosa, C., Andrea Minoia >, M. B., & Chad Verzosa >, M. B. (n.d.). How To Photograph the Moon (Best Gear, Settings & Tips 2022). ExpertPhotography. https://expertphotography.com/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  10. Photography Guide | Observe – Moon: NASA Science. (n.d.). Moon: NASA Science. https://moon.nasa.gov/moon-observation/photography-guide/.
  11. Richard Engelbrecht. Professional Photographer. Expert Interview. 1 October 2020.
  12. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  13. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  14. Cromie, G. (2021, April 2). How To Photograph the Moon – 12 PRO Tips & Secrets. Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/moon-photography/.
  15. Richard Engelbrecht. Professional Photographer. Expert Interview. 1 October 2020.
  16. Richard Engelbrecht. Professional Photographer. Expert Interview. 1 October 2020.
  17. Photography Guide | Observe – Moon: NASA Science. (n.d.). Moon: NASA Science. https://moon.nasa.gov/moon-observation/photography-guide/.
  18. Lawrence, P., & S. (2021, January 6). How To Photograph the Moon. BBC Sky at Night Magazine. https://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/astrophotography/astrophoto-tips/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  19. Minoia, A., Verzosa, C., Andrea Minoia >, M. B., & Chad Verzosa >, M. B. (n.d.). How To Photograph the Moon (Best Gear, Settings & Tips 2022). ExpertPhotography. https://expertphotography.com/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  20. Cromie, G. (2021, April 5). How To Clean a Camera Lens (PRO Vs DIY Method!). Shotkit. https://shotkit.com/how-to-clean-camera-lens/.
  21. Photography Guide | Observe – Moon: NASA Science. (n.d.). Moon: NASA Science. https://moon.nasa.gov/moon-observation/photography-guide/.
  22. Minoia, A., Verzosa, C., Andrea Minoia >, M. B., & Chad Verzosa >, M. B. (n.d.). How To Photograph the Moon (Best Gear, Settings & Tips 2022). ExpertPhotography. https://expertphotography.com/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  23. Henry, N. (2020, May 6). How To Take a Good Supermoon Photo – CNET. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/how-to-take-epic-moon-photos/.
  24. Photography Guide | Observe – Moon: NASA Science. (n.d.). Moon: NASA Science. https://moon.nasa.gov/moon-observation/photography-guide/.
  25. Photography Guide | Observe – Moon: NASA Science. (n.d.). Moon: NASA Science. https://moon.nasa.gov/moon-observation/photography-guide/.
  26. Lawrence, P., & S. (2021, January 6). How To Photograph the Moon. BBC Sky at Night Magazine. https://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/astrophotography/astrophoto-tips/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  27. Lawrence, P., & S. (2021, January 6). How To Photograph the Moon. BBC Sky at Night Magazine. https://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/astrophotography/astrophoto-tips/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  28. Henry, N. (2020, May 6). How To Take a Good Supermoon Photo – CNET. CNET. https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/how-to-take-epic-moon-photos/.
  29. Minoia, A., Verzosa, C., Andrea Minoia >, M. B., & Chad Verzosa >, M. B. (n.d.). How To Photograph the Moon (Best Gear, Settings & Tips 2022). ExpertPhotography. https://expertphotography.com/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.
  30. Lawrence, P., & S. (2021, January 6). How To Photograph the Moon. BBC Sky at Night Magazine. https://www.skyatnightmagazine.com/astrophotography/astrophoto-tips/how-to-photograph-the-moon/.

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