You’ve gazed up at it countless times, but have you ever really managed to take a good photo of the moon? Pointing your smartphone up at the sky on a particularly beautiful night can yield inconsistent results, but don’t be disheartened. With some guidance and the right camera gear, you can vastly improve your moon photography.
We teamed up with the photography experts at Ted’s Cameras to round up the best moon photography tips. Here is how to take good photos of the moon in three simple steps.
1. Use the right gear
First things first, you need to find the best camera to photograph the moon. While you can try your hand with whatever camera you can get your hands on, your chances of success will increase if you use a camera with compatibility with accessories, manual settings, and good low light performance. We recommend a DSLR or Mirrorless camera, with big zoom compact cameras also being a suitable option.
Although the moon can often look big in the sky, to frame it to perfection, you want to invest in a telephoto lens for your camera. This allows you to crop out peripheral details and fill more of the frame with the moon, making it the best lens for moon photography. We recommend a 200mm focal length to start off with, with zoom options providing greater flexibility when composing.
Another essential item for moon photography is a tripod. When mounted on a tripod, your camera will stay still as you shoot with slower shutter speeds, which eliminates camera shake. An added benefit is your composition remaining unchanged once you have perfected it.
The last item that you should consider adding to your kit is a light pollution filter. This easy to use accessory is handy for reducing the unwanted colour casts given off by artificial lighting, such as street lights. A must-have for all astrophotographers, these filters save plenty of time and frustration during the editing process.
2. Use the right camera settings for moon photography
While experimentation is the key to unearthing fresh results, there are a few key settings that you can lean on to take a good picture of the moon straight away.
- Set a low ISO speed (100-200). This will limit the amount of noise that your sensor will record, seeing as the shooting conditions will be dark.
- Aperture f8-11. This is a rough figure, so make some changes to see what works best. You are looking for the figure at which your lens is its sharpest.
- Shutter speed. With your ISO and aperture set, adjust your shutter speed accordingly. Take a few test shots and see what speed captures the best detail of the moon’s surface.
- Use manual focus. Your autofocus system may struggle with accuracy. Switch your lens to manual focus and take matters into your own hands.
3. Pick the right night and location
While full moon photos are the most popular when it comes to moon photography, each phase of the moon is picturesque in its own way. Study the phases of the moon and decide which you would like to photograph. Moon phases are predictable, so you can easily pick the right night by looking at your calendar or installing a dedicated app on your smartphone.
In terms of weather, it is a personal choice as to what conditions are the best for nighttime moon photography. If you want a stark image with as much detail of the moon as possible, keep an eye out for a clear night. Some photographers love the glow that the moon gives off when it gets covered in clouds. If this is you, pick a night with some cloud cover and wait for your perfect moment patiently.
Lastly, make sure you have a spot that gives you a clear view of the moon, without manmade or natural obstacles getting in the way. Go scouting before your shoot looking for your perfect moon gazing location. You may want to find a hill, so that you have a good vantage point of the moon as it rises above land and into view. Keep in mind, there are many tools online that can tell you when the moon will rise and at what position in the sky, so if you really want to be prepared to get the best shot, take this into account when you plan your shoot.
Get creative with your moon shots
Now that you’ve mastered the art of capturing great moon photos, it’s time to go out and get creative with your shots! For more photography inspiration and tutorials, make sure to check out Ted’s Cameras’ blog.