2014-10-27

How to take great pictures of the moon

f/8  1/125sec  ISO100  250mm
Got some free time on a clear winter’s night, why don’t you shoot for the Moon…

I have always been fascinated with the moon and the affect it has on us, so this led me to combining my passion for photography with the moon by creating a yearlong project to photograph every phase of the moon.  The reason why it took me almost a year was more down to the British weather rather than my photography skills.

When I started it seemed like an easy task, but trying to capture the last phases to complete the project meant waiting months to get the right photo. One cloudy night and you have to wait another month to try again...

You don’t need to go to this degree of frustration, just find a clear night or early morning before the sunrises and get going.

So let’s get started.


All of my photos were taken with a Canon EOS 450D, EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS, tripod and a cable release, so no pro gear used here. I would love to use a 500mm lens, but this project was created on a budget that anybody can afford.  Imagine what spectacular photos you can take with today’s cameras and lenses. I am so looking forward to the Canon EOS 7D Mk II and Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 S DG OS HSM Lens.

f11  1/20sec  ISO100  250mm
Now find a nice location that will provide you with a clear line of sight to the moon, away from as much light pollution as possible. I was lucky enough to take all of my photos from my back garden.

Basic settings that I used to capture my images
A good zoom lens is essential to capture as much details as possible. I used an EF-S 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS, but the greater the focal length the more detail you will capture.

A tripod is a must to keep the camera still, combined with a cable release to reduce any chance of camera shake resulting in nice sharp images. If you don’t have a cable release, set the cameras self-timer to a few seconds in the set up menu.

f11  1/5sec  ISO100  250mm
Remember there are a few key factors to consider when shooting the moon: the moon is brighter than you think, so a low ISO is ok and it’s moving slowly, so a fast shutter speed helps.

Switch your lens to manual focus and camera to manual mode and enter the settings below.

  • ISO = 100 
  • F Stop = f11
  • Shutter Speed = 1/20 to 1/200 sec

Remember, these are my basic settings, which you will need to tweak depending on the phase of the moon and how bright or dark the moon is.

Live view on the Canon EOS 450D was a massive help for me to fine tune the focusing on the moons craters. Using Live View, zoom in on the centre of the moon or I found the shadows on the craters on the edge of the moon gave me the results I was looking for, then fine turn your focus. Check your image is nice and sharp, press the shutter release and away you go…

My photos were shot using JPEG , but I should have shot them in RAW to capture even more data to help with processing. Always learning by mistakes…

Once you have taken your Moon photos, transfer them to photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to crop, sharpen, and bring out some features with more clarity and any other magic you wish to add to your Moon photos.

Once you have your finished images why not get creative…

The main thing is to go out and have fun, try different things and find your own style.

If you like shooing at Night or Low Light, and want more photo advice, why not try our night time photo walks in London or our Light Trails workshops (held in January & February 2015). Alternatively, purchase the Night & Low Light Photography guide which not only features tips and tricks, but also includes a pull-out quick reference guide to assist you.

If you have any questions about how to photograph the moon, please write in the comments box below and we’ll do our best to answer them for you.

Mark
Park Cameras

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