Best Camera App For Moon Shots

By | 15/10/2022

Information technology can be very useful to empathize how to photo the moon with your digital camera. Sometimes, you lot might desire to capture the Moon when it is total and beautiful, while other times you might want to capture an interesting event like a Lunar Eclipse.

Either way, the process of photographing the Moon starts with your selection of camera gear – although shooting technique and post-processing are but as important. In this article, nosotros explain everything you need to know about Moon photography from start to finish.

An image of a Waning Gibbous moon phase - how to photograph the moon
Waning Gibbous Moon

Moon Photography Challenges

If you have previously attempted to capture the Moon and it came out very small-scale or looked similar a white blob, don’t be frustrated. Many photographers become through like pains the offset time they attempt it out. Moon photography can exist hard and frustrating, which is why we wrote this guide for you.

Despite all the challenges, photographing the Moon is a cracking learning experience, especially if you lot are willing to experiment a picayune. You volition learn all sorts of techniques along the way: reducing photographic camera milkshake in low-calorie-free weather condition, dealing with wind and heat moving ridge distortion for distant subjects, manually setting your photographic camera, and even incorporating the moon into other photos (with more than just the moon equally your subject)!

Moon photography is exciting, because y’all can do information technology in so many unlike means. Y’all can have a moving picture of the Moon by itself with a telephoto lens and capture its details, including its big craters. Yous can photograph an interesting landscape or a scene with the Moon as part of the composition. You lot can fifty-fifty create a composite image, combining a previously captured image of the Moon with a cool-looking subject, as tin be seen in the instance beneath:

Vampire Drinking Blood on Full Moon - How to Photograph the Moon
This epitome of a vampire drinking blood during the Full Moon is a blended – the Moon was added to the image to create drama.

Moon Phases Explained

Before nosotros talk about how you can photo the Moon, information technology is important to sympathise the nuts of Moon phases.

Equally you already know, the Moon goes through different phases throughout the month. When the Moon is between the Earth and Sun, we get a “New Moon” because no sunlight falls on the side of the moon facing us. When the opposite is true – the Earth is betwixt the Moon and Sun – the side of the moon facing us is lit upward, and we become a Full Moon.

This bike repeats itself every 29.53 days, which is called its “synodic period.” Here is a diagram of unlike Moon phases:

Moon Phases
Moon Phases

As the New Moon grows illuminated, it passes through a Crescent, then a Quarter, followed by Gibbous stage. Lastly, it reaches the Total Moon, and and so the shadow starts creeping in on the other side. The cycle repeats in reverse – Gibbous, Quarter, Crescent – until nosotros get a New Moon again.

The Moon is “Waxing” when it is growing more illuminated and “Waning” when it is growing less illuminated. A Waxing and Waning Crescent have the same shape, but they appear on contrary sides of the Moon.

It is important to signal out that your location while observing the Moon from Earth is very of import. The diagram to a higher place is for the Northern Hemisphere, where the moon Waxes on the correct and Wanes on the left. The reverse is truthful in the Southern Hemisphere due to the moon appearing “upside down” by comparison.

Once you understand these basics, it will be very piece of cake for you to tell how soon a Full Moon is to exist expected! For instance, if I’m in the Northern Hemisphere, and I see a Crescent Moon illuminated on the right, I know that I’grand about 10 days away from the Total Moon. But if I encounter a Crescent Moon illuminated on the left, it will be near two and a half weeks earlier the next Full Moon.

Of grade, that’s only a quick way to get an guess. You can always employ excellent apps to not merely calculate the exact Moon stage on a given mean solar day, but as well determine its position in the sky at unlike times of the day in your location! We volition go through the most useful apps that I personally use further down in this article.

Image with the Moon in Last Quarter Moon Phase
Terminal Quarter Moon Phase, Iceland. Copyright Spencer Cox.
NIKON D800E + AF-S NIKKOR 70-200mm f/4G ED VR @ 90mm, ISO 100, 0.6 sec, f/8.0

Here are some other useful points of data nearly how the Moon looks at different times:

  • The Moon is tidally locked to Earth, meaning that we merely ever see one side of the moon, no affair the time of day, time of yr, or your location on World.
  • The distance from Earth to Moon varies throughout the year. When the Moon is closest to Earth, it is often referred to as the “Supermoon”. When the moon is is the furthest abroad from the Globe, it is referred to as “Micromoon”. More than on the Supermoon below.
  • If there is more than than ane Full Moon in a month, it is referred to as the “Blueish Moon”.
  • When the Sun, Earth and Moon line up, an eclipse occurs. It’s a Solar Eclipse when the Moon is blocking out the Sun (this is the more famous blazon of eclipse), while it’s a Lunar Eclipse when the World’due south shadow falls on the Moon.
  • The Moon during a Lunar Eclipse is often referred to as the “Claret Moon” due to its cherry-red advent.
  • In the Northern Hemisphere, the Moon’s illumination moves from right to left. In the Southern Hemisphere, the illumination moves from left to right. If yous stand in the equator, the illumination will vary depending on the time of the day, as explained here.

If you want to find out the current moon phase, accept a look at this page, courtesy of TimeandDate.com, where you can discover out what phase the moon is currently in. You can as well calculate what it volition be by picking the date from the bottom of the page. Other apps can practice this every bit well, which we volition go over later in this article.

What is a Supermoon?

A Supermoon is a name given to a somewhat rare event – when the Total Moon is physically about its closest point to our planet. The term “Supermoon” can also refer to the New Moon likewise, although that is not every bit common to see in popular media.

As the Moon rotates in its elliptical orbit around Earth, there are ii points that astronomers marked with names. “Lunar Perigee,” which is the the bespeak of the closest altitude of the Moon to our planet at 363,104 kilometers, and “Lunar Apogee”, which is the betoken of the farthest distance of the Moon from our planet at 405,696 kilometers.

So, when Lunar Perigee coincides with the Full Moon (which normally happens several times a year), the “Supermoon” is built-in. It can announced up to 14% larger in diameter than a Total Moon at the Lunar Apogee, equally well as having a xxx% brighter illuminance. NASA’s illustration below demonstrates the appearance of a Supermoon:

NASA Supermoon Comparison
Supermoon vs Micromoon
Analogy by NASA, Public Domain

Although the Supermoon can exist seen several times a yr, only one of those is usually the most “super” – in other words, the largest and closest of them all.

What is a Lunar Eclipse?

A Lunar Eclipse occurs when the Sun, the Earth and the Moon are closely aligned and the Moon falls into the Globe’s shadow. A Lunar Eclipse tin can simply have identify at night, and only when the Moon is Full. Information technology tin occur betwixt two and five times a year across the world, and then it is considered to be a somewhat rare astronomical event.

Total Lunar Eclipse 2010
Total Lunar Eclipse

Due to sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere and reaching the Moon, the Lunar Eclipse mostly has a cherry-red or copper color. The amount of redness depends on the amount of dust and clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere. More than atmospheric particles means a darker shade of cherry-red for the moon.

Because of this reddish color, many refer to Lunar Eclipses as the “Blood Moon” or “Claret-Carmine Moon.”

Full Moon Names

The Total Moon has unlike names depending on the month, given past Native Americans (some sources point the Total Moon names also originating from Anglo-Saxon and Germanic roots). Below are the names of the Full Moon by calendar month, taken from this source:

  • January: Wolf Moon
  • February: Snow Moon
  • March: Worm Moon
  • Apr: Pinkish Moon
  • May: Bloom Moon
  • June: Strawberry Moon
  • July: Buck Moon
  • Baronial: Sturgeon Moon
  • September: Harvest or Corn Moon
  • October: Harvest or Hunter’s Moon
  • Nov: Beaver Moon
  • Dec: Cold Moon

Pop scientific discipline media oft goes crazy with these names. The Full Moon that occurred on January 20th, 2019 was dubbed “Super Wolf Blood Moon.” The word “super” indicated the Moon’s proximity to World, every bit explained above. The word “wolf” but indicated the month of Jan. And finally, the word “claret” described the Lunar Eclipse.

Now how would yous describe a click-bait championship for a Lunar Eclipse that takes place in Dec? It would be a “Cold Blood Moon”. If the Moon is closer to the Earth, add together the word “Super” in front to go far audio even more dramatic!

Unfortunately, such crazy titles are at present common to run into in science media…

Moon over Cappadocia
Full Moon over Cappadocia, Turkey. Copyright Spencer Cox
NIKON Z seven + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/four S @ 70mm, ISO 64, v sec, f/eleven.0

Moon Photography Basics

Now that we have gone through the Moon Phases and the different names of the Moon, it is fourth dimension to take a look at some of the basics of how to photograph the Moon. Below is a quick summary of all the of import points:

  • Determine on Shut-upwards vs with Foreground– Kickoff of all, you should decide whether you lot want to photograph a close-upwardly of the Moon with all of its details, or mayhap just include information technology as a smaller part of your overall limerick. The latter is relatively easy and does not require any special equipment. However, photographing shut-ups of the Moon requires more avant-garde gear and photographic camera technique. We encompass all that later in this commodity.
  • Consider Moon Phases – Y’all will need to decide which phase of the Moon you want to capture. The Moon looks very dissimilar across its phases, casting deeper shadows on the surface and making different parts of the Moon appear more than prominent. A full Moon is quite popular among photographers, but equally I demonstrate further down in this article, information technology is not always an ideal phase to photograph due to its “flat” appearance.
  • Program – Without a doubt, planning is one of the near important steps in moon photography. If yous plan it all right, you volition cease up with stunning images of the Moon. Proper planning is especially important for rare lunar events, because you lot do not want to miss the opportunity! Things like moon phases, weather atmospheric condition, location of the moon relative to your subject, camera gear, and camera settings are all important. You should take the time to appraise each variable beforehand.
  • Assess Camera Gear – You will need carefully appraise your photographic camera gear and encounter what type of moon photography you can exercise with information technology. Camera gear is important for moon photography, which is why we will cover it extensively in this commodity.
  • Cull Proper Camera Settings – Information technology is important to know which camera settings work best for moon photography, peculiarly when using long super telephoto lenses and telescopes. Long shutter speeds and photographic camera shake tin can be huge sources of problems, making the Moon and its details announced blurry.
  • Take Time to Mail service-Process – The Moon might announced very flat without whatsoever post-processing, peculiarly when shooting in RAW format, so basic postal service-processing is oft needed. To be able to showcase all the details of the Moon and get in look sharp, you might need to use different blending, stacking and sharpening techniques in post-processing as well.
  • Be Conscientious When Doing Composites – If you decide to give an paradigm some creative liberty and create a blended image from completely different sets of images, endeavour to avoid making your images await fake. If you shot a landscape with a wide-angle lens and copy-pasted a huge version of the Moon, it will look very fake and unrealistic.The same goes for the shadows. The dark side of the Moon should always lucifer the effulgence and the colour of the sky, in both daylight and dark-time conditions. So if you copy-paste the image of the Moon with its shadow looking black into a blue sky, information technology will obviously await fake.

Let’south become through each of the to a higher place in more item.

How to Photograph the Moon with Foreground

If you want to take a flick of the Moon with foreground as role of your composition, you can practise that very easily without any special equipment in daylight atmospheric condition. In fact, you can even capture such images fifty-fifty with a smartphone!

Capturing the Moon in Daylight Conditions

Capturing the Moon in broad daylight is like shooting fish in a barrel, because both the Moon and the surrounding environment are equally bright, and so you can capture the two in a single exposure. No special settings are needed either – just shoot in any mode mitt-held, and you should have neat results!

Image of the moon over mountains at sunset - how to photograph the moon
When capturing the above image of the moonrise at Death Valley National Park, I had to zoom in on the Moon and adjust my composition to go far appear larger.

Information technology is important to point out that when using wide-angle lenses, the Moon will announced tiny in the frame. If you want to brand the Moon announced larger, yous will demand to use the lens’ optical zoom. Withal, this will also bear on the rest of the frame, since everything else will also become bigger. In such situations, you might need to find a different composition to get in work, as I take washed with the image higher up.

While some photographers resort to copy-pasting a larger version of the moon to their wide-angle shots, I recommend against such practices. That’s because such shots ofttimes end uplooking false and unnatural.

Capturing the Moon in Depression-Low-cal Conditions

What about photographing the Moon in depression-light conditions? That’southward when things become a bit more challenging. The main reason is differences in exposure. The Moon gets quite bright, especially when information technology is total, while the rest of the scene is too night.

If you expose for the Moon, you volition exist able to see all the features of it, but the landscape will look besides dark. If yous betrayal for the foreground, the mural will appear too night and the Moon volition be very overexposed.

The solution is to have two or more images, exposing separately for the Moon and the foreground, and then merge the two in post-processing, as I take washed in the epitome below:

Moon Blended Image Horizon - moon photography
To make this photograph, I exposed differently for the Moon and the foreground, then used Photoshop to merge the 2 together into a single image.
Sony A7R II + 70-200mm f/4G OSS @ 200mm, ISO 800, 0.vi sec, f/8

If your goal is to capture the Moon with the night heaven, things could get a bit more challenging, since the exposure fourth dimension for the sky is vastly different compared to the Moon.

If the Moon is non full and appears relatively pocket-size in size compared to the rest of the landscape (when using an ultra-wide angle lens), yous could finish up getting a shot like this:

Milky Way Moonrise
Waning moon with the Milky Way
Catechism EOS 5DS R + 24-70mm f/ii.8L Ii USM @ 24mm, ISO 3200, 20 sec, f/2.8

Nevertheless, attempting to shoot and then alloy such images can exist quite hard in post, since the Moon can do all sorts of damage to your photo – from visible signs of ghosting and flare, to huge parts of the sky appearing as well bright. If the Moon is full or virtually full, you might non even be able to capture most of the stars, especially if there is dust, moisture, or other particles in the temper.

Photographing Close-Up of the Moon

Taking a detailed close-up picture of the Moon tin can be difficult, depending on how big y’all desire it to appear and how much detail you lot want to showcase. An extreme close-upwards of the Moon requires a long super telephoto lens, or a telescope attached to a high-resolution digital camera, as discussed below.

In addition, you will need to do proper weather and location planning for photographing a shut-upwardly of the moon. Your all-time option might be to go out of town and travel to a remote location with very little light and air pollution, preferably at a college elevation.

Crescent Moon
Crescent Moon
Nikon D300 + 200-400mm f/4 + i.4x TC @ 560mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/5.half dozen

Weather planning is peculiarly very important, as discussed in the adjacent section. You do not want to deal with atmospheric brume due to dust, smoke and moisture in the air, and yous certainly do not desire to deal with any heat waves either. These things destroy the construction of the moon, making it very difficult to preserve any details.

Basically, the less the distance and substance betwixt you and the Moon, the better the results.

In this article and further steps, we will mostly focus on photographing the Moon close-upwards.

Moon Stage Considerations

While most photographers strive to capture the Moon when it is full, keep in mind that when the Moon is fully illuminated past the Lord’s day from our perspective, its surface features disappear due to lack of shadows. This results in the Moon looking very “flat”, every bit you have probably seen in many pictures like this earlier:

Full Moon
Full Moon ofttimes looks flat due to even forepart illumination by the Sun
NIKON D7000 + 400mm f/2.8 + 1.7x @ 680mm, ISO 100, one/400, f/four.viii

If y’all have never photographed the Moon earlier, I would certainly suggest to take a film of it when it is full. You will acquire quite a flake in the procedure and you volition have a picture show of the Total Moon that y’all tin reuse in other images.

All the same, once you capture the Full Moon, I would recommend to attempt shooting it during other phases. You will come across but much divergence there is in surface-level detail between different phases and you will notice things you lot might have never seen before. Craters and mountains of the Moon appear differently during unlike phases, making the images look more interesting.

Waning Gibbous Moon, Close to Last Quarter
Waning Gibbous Moon, Close to Terminal Quarter
NIKON Z vii + 600mm f/4 + 1.4x TC @ 850mm, ISO 64, 1/125, f/6.iii

Once you pick the Moon stage, the next pace is to properly programme the shot.

How to Plan for Photographing the Moon

Proper planning is very important if you desire to end up with a beautiful image of the Moon. If there is a rare event, such as a Supermoon, a Lunar Eclipse, or a combination of different lunar events, yous might need to take a flake more than time to organize and plan.

As we explain in the article, the process of photographing a Lunar Eclipse is very dissimilar, requiring a lot more than technical skill to obtain a solid image, which is why proper planning and prior testing are necessary. An ultra-rare outcome such as a Solar Eclipse is even more demanding, and if you are not careful, yous could end upward dissentious your camera gear and even your ain eyesight!

Check Weather Forecasts

It goes without saying that you lot should be watching weather forecasts to make sure that the part of the heaven where the Moon will announced is going to exist articulate. While photographing the Moon with some clouds could be fun when doing a wide-angle shot, you certainly exercise not want to bargain with heavy clouds, haze or moisture in the atmosphere when shooting extreme close-ups.

Loftier levels of brume and wet in the temper tin exist especially damaging, as they can blur the details of the moon and arrive appear blurry.

Too, if y’all alive in a big city, air pollution can be a big problem, specially on hot summer days. Heat waves are a definite trouble when shooting at long focal lengths, as can exist seen from the image crops below:

Moon Photography - Heat Wave
Both of these images of the Moon’s surface were captured on a hot summer 24-hour interval. 1 can clearly see the damaging effects of heat waves on the left epitome. The heat waves not only diminished the details of the lunar surface, but likewise changed the relative size and shapes of the craters.

I personally detect colder nights to be ideal for close-up moon photography for this reason. However, common cold temperatures make it hard to stand for prolonged periods of time exterior and drain camera batteries faster.

Use Apps and Websites for Planning

Take advantage of useful apps and websites to effigy out when the targeted Moon stage occurs, when the Moon rises and sets and where yous can photograph it from. Some apps fifty-fifty have a “Night Augmented Reality Mode” that overlay the moon on your landscape / subject to summate the precise time and location.

Here are some useful online resources I personally utilise for moon photography:

  • TimeAndDate.com Moon Phases – a swell resource to observe the current moon phase, equally well equally other upcoming lunar events.
  • Dark Sky Finder – I use the Dark Sky Finder map to find the best spots in my expanse with the least amount of air pollution.

When it comes to apps, there are many to cull from, simply these are the ii I personally recommend over others:

  • The Lensman’southward Ephemeris 3D – a solid app that shows a lot of useful information for moon photography. The 3D view is very helpful for planning.
  • Photo Pills – my personal favorite. I use Photo Pills all the fourth dimension to wait up Moon phases. I am particularly a large fan of the Augmented Reality (AR) fashion.

On location, make sure to use apps similar to the higher up to effigy out exactly where the Moon will announced relative to your foreground / subject if you are planning to incorporate it to your images to improve your composition.

Photo-Pills-Screenshot
Screenshots of the Photograph Pills app for iOS, showing Moon Phases and Augmented Reality

The Augmented Reality characteristic on the Photo Pills app, in particular, is very useful for proper planning. You lot tin can stand in the verbal location where y’all want to take a photo, so move the timer to the engagement and time the Moon volition be in the phase you want, and it will evidence you how the Moon will move relative to the landscape y’all see through your device’southward photographic camera.

Piece of work on Composition

If your program is to photograph the Moon with an interesting foreground or a discipline in the scene, then you lot must pay close attention to your composition. The type of composition you use will depend on the size of the Moon relative to the foreground.

When shooting a scene with a wide-bending lens, the Moon is going to accept a very small portion of the scene. In such cases, the Moon is often going to have on the part of a filler element that adds something interesting to the image.

Moon Above Mountains on iPhone
Moon higher up the Creative person’south Palette, Decease Valley NP
iPhone XS Max @ 6mm, ISO 16, 1/1150, f/2.4

Notwithstanding, if y’all use a telephoto lens to make the Moon announced much larger, it will often become the primary or the secondary subject area in the frame. In such cases, the Moon is the highlight and the rest of the scene is there to assistance show the essence and the beauty of the Moon.

Crescent Moon Rising Over Mountain with Trees
Crescent Moon rise over layered mount
NIKON D300 + 200-400mm f/4 @ 200mm, ISO 200, 1/500, f/five.0

Prepare Camera Gear and Test

Once you scout the location, notice out exactly where the moon volition rise and set, you can gear up your photographic camera gear and test it out (the camera gear and all the photographic camera settings are going to exist covered next). Once you get it all fix to get, make sure to test the camera gear and the settings beforehand.

Contents that will fit in a Lowepro Pro Roller x200 Roller Bag
Make certain to prepare all necessary camera gear – from cameras and lenses, to memory cards and chargers.

If you are photographing but the Moon without any special lunar events, then you tin can test your setup any time, since you lot volition have plenty of it. Even so, if yous are anticipating an event like a Lunar Eclipse, you should prepare in advance and read this article in detail. Extremely rare events such as the Solar Eclipse require much more planning. See my article on How to Photo a Solar Eclipse for detailed information.

Best Camera Equipment for Moon Photography

Non all cameras and lenses are ideal for all types of moon photography. If you have a smartphone or a basic digital camera with a wide-angle lens, you will be express to photographing the Moon as role of your limerick.

Those equipped with meaty cameras with loftier-power zoom lenses, interchangeable lens cameras with super telephoto lenses, or digital cameras mounted to advanced telescopes will be able to capture the Moon in its full glory, with a lot of close-upwardly detail.

Others might even take advantage of equatorial trackers that can automatically track the Moon across the heaven, yielding maximum epitome quality while providing convenience in the field.

Camera and Lens

At that place are many dissimilar types of cameras, lenses, telescopes and mounts available out there and we cannot go over them all. All the same, below is a list of basic camera gear that you volition need to photograph a shut-upwardly of the Moon:

  1. An interchangeable lens photographic camera with a 300mm+ telephoto lens (in full-frame / 35mm equivalent), or a point-and-shoot camera with a high-magnification optical zoom lens.
  2. A stable tripod.
  3. Remote camera release (optional). If you do not have one, a timer in your camera should too work.

If you desire to enlarge the moon and show the details of its surface, a high-quality telephoto lens with a focal length of 300mm+ is needed. The longer the lens, the amend.

If your lens can be coupled with teleconverters, I highly recommend adding ane to increment the overall focal length. For example, a 1.4x teleconverter volition increase the focal length of a 300mm lens by 40% or to 420mm total, while a 2.0x teleconverter will increase the focal length of the aforementioned lens to 600mm.

The only thing to keep in listen, is that teleconverters negatively bear on lens sharpness and decrease its maximum aperture. For example, if you mount a 1.4x teleconverter to the Nikon 300mm f/4 PF lens, it volition essentially get a 420mm f/5.half dozen lens. Due to meaning loss of sharpness when using 2.0x teleconverters, I recommend confronting their use for moon photography.

Nikon 800mm vs 600mm vs 500mm
Nikon’s 800mm, 600mm and 500mm super telephoto lenses

Since super telephoto prime lenses are typically very costly, I would recommend to utilise good quality zoom lenses instead. Lens manufacturers like Sigma and Tamron offer zoom lenses in the 150-600mm range that are first-class candidates for photographing the moon. Nikon’s 200-500mm f/5.6E VR is also a great option, giving y’all plenty of reach at 500mm.

Speaking of “reach”, a smaller-sensor camera is frequently more preferable than a full-frame camera. This is due to smaller sensors having smaller pixels and lots of resolution, allowing for more magnification of the subject.

For example, if you were to compare the Nikon D3500 to the Nikon D750, both have like 24 MP resolution. Notwithstanding, the former is a DX camera with an APS-C sensor, while the latter is an FX camera with a full-frame sensor (run across FX vs DX). This means that the D3500 is going to have a 1.5x more than magnification and a much smaller pixel pitch, making the Moon appear larger in the frame.

And so in this particular example, the D3500 is going to be more than preferable than the D750 to go a shut-up of the Moon. Proceed this in heed when evaluating cameras for moon photography. A cheaper, smaller sensor camera might be a better choice at the end of the day!

If an interchangeable lens camera with a telephoto lens is out of your upkeep, consider getting a point-and-shoot camera with a loftier magnification zoom lens such as the Nikon P900. Thank you to its insane 24-2000mm full-frame equivalent lens, the Nikon P900 is ane of the best cameras on the market for moon photography today. With its toll tag of $600, it gives expensive super telephoto lenses a run for its money!

Now if you want the best setup for photographing the Moon, consider getting a high-quality telescope with a digital photographic camera mount. While a basic telescope with a minor digital camera might stop upward costing y’all less than a high quality telephoto lens on a DSLR or a mirrorless camera, an advanced telescope with an equatorial mount coupled with a properly cooled CCD sensor camera will cost a fortune.

Defended astrophotographers who like taking pictures of deep sky objects use such gear and they tin photo extreme details of the lunar surface. Unless you know what you are doing, I would recommend against building a telescope rig, as it can become complex to set up and shoot.

Tripod and Accessories

When using long focal length lenses, camera shake becomes a big problem. As long focal lengths go beyond 300mm, even a slight move can mess upwards and mistiness the picture. That’s why if you lot are using a telephoto lens, a stable tripod is required to be able to produce a sharp prototype of the moon.

If you shoot with a very long lens, yous should totally read my advanced article on how to stabilize your tripod. Trust me, you volition demand every tool in your arsenal to make a blur-free image of the moon at focal lengths in a higher place 300mm, particularly if you lot have a shaky tripod or unstable tripod head.

In addition to the tripod, you lot will need a solid tripod head that makes it like shooting fish in a barrel to readjust the photographic camera position when the Moon moves. Continue in mind that the Moon moves a lot, especially at higher magnifications, so you volition be constantly adjusting your photographic camera to keep the moon centered.

Despite my typical recommendation to use a solid ball head, I recommend against using 1 for photographing the Moon. Instead, use a geared three-manner Pan-and-Tilt head, as information technology will exist easier to adapt it to a precise position. The heavy-duty geared caput I recommend is the Manfrotto 405, but if you are using a lightweight setup, the Manfrotto 410 is significantly cheaper.

Manfrotto 405 Geared Head
Manfrotto 405 Geared Caput

Having a remote camera trigger also helps reduce the camera milk shake. If you shoot with a DSLR, you can use the Mirror Lock Upwards (MLU) feature together with a remote camera trigger to reduce mirror vibrations.

Equatorial Tracker

You don’t really need an equatorial tracker for photographing the Moon, because it is bright enough to use fast shutter speeds and low camera ISO values.

Equatorial Tracker
Equatorial Tracker

Nonetheless, if y’all employ long lenses and yous do non want to deal with having to constantly adjust the tripod, an equatorial tracker tin come quite handy. If you lot desire to buy one for your astrophotography needs, I would recommend to go with the iOptron SkyGuider Pro. Information technology is a very solid tracker that is piece of cake to use. Once you align the unit with the North Star, the residue is a breeze!

Best Camera Settings for Photographing the Moon

To photograph just the moon by itself, without any objects in the foreground, you will demand a long telephoto lens like explained above to magnify the moon and try to fill every bit much of the frame as possible. With your telephoto lens mounted on your camera, secure the two on your tripod and point at the moon. When it comes to photographic camera settings, including shutter speed, aperture and ISO, here is what I recommend for general utilize:

  • Image Format: If your camera can shoot in RAW image format, cull RAW instead of JPEG. This way, you do not have to worry almost your camera settings affecting your images, including White Residue.
  • Camera Mode: Set your camera mode to full
    manual fashion
    .
  • ISO: Set your ISO to your camera’s
     base ISO, which is typically ISO 100 on nearly cameras
    . If you have a point and shoot camera, see if you tin can discover a menu setting to set your ISO to 100. Make sure “Auto ISO” is turned Off.
  • Aperture: Set your aperture to
    f/eleven
    .
  • Shutter Speed: Set your shutter speed to
    1/100
    .
  • White Balance: Ready it to “Daylight”, although it does not affair if you shoot in RAW – you volition be able to change it in postal service-processing.
  • Lens Focus: Use the rear LCD screen of your photographic camera to zoom in and focus on the moon. One time focus is acquired and the Moon appears sharp, make sure to set up your lens to
    manual focus
     to prevent your photographic camera from refocusing.
  • Image Stabilization: Turn it off, since you are shooting from a tripod.
  • Camera Shake: To reduce vibrations from the mirror mechanism on a DSLR, make sure to use
    Mirror Up mode
    . To reduce vibrations from the shutter mechanism (both DSLR and mirrorless cameras), brand sure to turn
    Electronic Front Curtain Shutter
    on.

The above aperture and shutter speeds are derived from the Looney 11 rule, which is not necessarily very authentic for moon photography, equally I explain further down below. I recommend starting with the above settings and adjusting the shutter speed based on the effulgence of the moon.

If it is too bright, set your shutter speed to a higher value. If it is likewise dim, fix your shutter speed to a lower value. Think, the moon moves pretty fast, so you definitely do not want to be photographing it with a tiresome shutter speed, especially when using a long telephoto lens. If your shutter speed is as well wearisome, you tin open the lens discontinuity or increase the camera ISO.

Another affair I recommend is to bracket your shots. When taking pictures of the Moon, you might observe that some parts of the moon come out overexposed, while other parts are quite underexposed. To forbid such issues, you tin bracket your shots full cease apart – I would recommend at least three exposures to be on the safe side. You can then employ postal service-processing techniques like HDR to merge these images into a single one.

The Blue Mosque
Sultanahmet (The Blue Mosque) with the Full Moon in the groundwork. I had to bracket the shot to go the Moon to expect good without blowing out the highlights.
Fuji X-Pro2 + XF56mmF1.ii R APD @ 56mm, ISO 200, i/viii, f/5.6

Modernistic DSLRs and mirrorless cameras come with a characteristic chosen “Electronic Front Curtain Shutter“, which tin can completely eliminate shutter shock. If y’all have this feature on your camera, make sure to enable information technology from the camera settings, equally shown below:

Nikon Electronic Front Curtain

If you lot do non have a remote shutter release cablevision or device, gear up your camera to a timer. The idea is to eliminate camera shake caused by your easily and the mirror slap before the exposure.

If you shoot with a telephoto lens longer than 300mm, it is best to enable Exposure Filibuster mode in combination with the timer. If you accept a remote shutter release cable or device, then a timer is non necessary, but I would even so turn Exposure Delay on to prevent mirror slap from potentially causing photographic camera milk shake.

Lastly, ready your photographic camera’south metering mode to spot, keep the focus point on the Moon and sentry your metering indicators. If you see over-exposure or under-exposure on the moon, adjust your photographic camera settings accordingly.

How to Focus on the Moon

If you lot are using a DSLR camera, it is best to utilize the “live view” feature to bring the image from the image sensor to the back LCD. Once in live view, the adjacent stride is to zoom in to the Moon as tight every bit possible, then use your camera’s autofocus system to acquire focus.

Virtually DSLR cameras will be able to autofocus on the moon this way. If autofocus does not piece of work, try to put the focus bespeak on the edge of the Moon and requite it another shot. If your photographic camera is however struggling, y’all might need to turn off autofocus and motion the focus band manually until the Moon looks abrupt.

It is important to indicate out that some DSLR cameras volition show the Moon every bit a white blob in alive view. If yous see this problem, the first step is to adjust your shutter speed until you commencement seeing the features of the Moon. If adjusting the shutter speed does not do anything and you still encounter a white blob, it nearly likely means that your camera is boosting the exposure automatically. In such cases, you lot will need to check out your photographic camera’s manual in order to turn this machine boosting manner off. On Nikon DSLRs, it could be as simple equally pressing the OK button.

If yous use a mirrorless or a point-and-shoot camera, you lot do not have to go into live view way, because the camera is already mirroring what is on the image sensor to the rear LCD. Simply zoom in to the Moon with the LCD as much as possible, and then use the camera’southward autofocus system to focus on the Moon, or its edges.

Once the Moon looks sharp on your photographic camera’due south LCD,brand certain to plow autofocus off. You lot tin can exercise that either through a switch on the lens, a switch on the photographic camera, or sometimes through a camera setting. Y’all do non desire your camera to endeavor to re-focus each time you take a shot, which is why it is a good idea to turn information technology off completely.

Looney 11 and Exposure Issues

What is the correct exposure for the Moon? Recall, the Moon is illuminated past the Lord’s day and its brightness varies by a number of dissimilar factors, such as weather weather condition (air cleanliness, mist, haze, etc), phase of the Moon and its location in the sky.

If we assume that the sky is completely clear and the Moon is located high in the sky, nosotros tin use the basic “Looney 11” rule, which states that you tin can utilize the discontinuity of f/eleven, and shutter speed to the reciprocal value of ISO to get a good exposure of the Moon. For example, if you utilize ISO 100, the shutter speed would be roughly ane/100th of a second at f/xi, while with ISO 200, it would be 1/200th of a second at the same aperture.

While you tin use this math as a baseline, it does not work well in practice. The reason for that are the ii variables of exposure: aperture and shutter speed. The discontinuity of f/11 is diffraction-limited, which means that stopping down to such a small aperture is going to hurt the sharpness of your Moon photos, especially when using cameras with smaller sensors.

Crescent-Moon-with-Venus
Crescent Moon with Venus
NIKON D750 + 300mm f/4 + 1.4x TC @ 420mm, ISO 400, 1/100, f/five.half dozen

The shutter speed of i/100 at ISO 100 tin as well be as well slow when using long super telephoto lenses, because of potential camera, tripod, current of air and other vibrations that could make images look blurry. In some cases, yous might need to push ISO to college values to get acceptable shutter speeds for your setup.

Alternatively, a better approach is to beginning with a larger aperture like f/5.6, which gets y’all started with a sharper paradigm. This should triple the starting shutter speed besides (when compared to f/11), resulting in less potential for photographic camera milk shake.

Some configurations of telephoto lenses with teleconverters require stopping down to get adequate sharpness, so you might demand to shoot in the f/8-f/xi range anyway. Even so, if you lot are non using a teleconverter with a super telephoto lens, there is footling reason to stop down beyond the maximum aperture.

Keep all this in listen when photographing the Moon. Looney 11 might sound like a skilful starting point, simply it does not really fit modern digital photographic camera and lens standards…

How to Photo the Supermoon

As I have already pointed out, a Supermoon occurs when the Moon is new or full, and it is at its closest proximity to our planet. If the skies are clear and you are lucky to see the Supermoon, why not photograph it?

The Supermoon of 06-23-2013 - how to Photograph the Moon
The Supermoon of 06-23-2013
NIKON D800E + 500mm f/4 + 2x TC @ 1000mm, ISO 200, 1/250, f/xiii

The process of photographing the Supermoon is identical to photographing regular Moon. In fact, since the Moon is a fleck larger and brighter than usual, it should be easier to photograph.

For the above photograph, I used the shutter speed of 1/250th of a second at ISO 200, which was fast enough to yield a reasonably sharp image of the Moon (there was no air current that day). I used the Nikon 500mm f/4G VR super telephoto lens with a 2x teleconverter, which resulted in a 1000mm f/8 setup. Since the lens sharpness suffered greatly due to utilise of a 2x teleconverter, I had to stop the lens downwards to f/thirteen to improve sharpness.

How to Capture “Earthshine”

The dark side of the Moon that is dimly illuminated by the sunlight reflected from Earth is referred to equally “earthshine”. Information technology tin can be photographed with your camera, provided that you expose for the shadow part of the Moon. This will severely over-expose the vivid side of the moon, while showing the details of the dark side. Withal, if y’all are dealing with a very thin crescent moon, the dark side might go visible as you use a slow shutter speed, every bit can be seen from the image beneath:

Crescent moon and Venus with some foreground
Crescent Moon, with visible Earthshine
NIKON D850 + 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 @ 300mm, ISO 400, 0.half-dozen sec, f/5.6

In most other cases, trying to bring out Earthshine volition outcome in the other part of the Moon appearing very overexposed. Proceed in mind that such slow shutter speeds are problematic to use due to Moon’s abiding motility, especially when using long lenses.

Photographing the Moon with a Phone

It is certainly possible to photograph the Moon with a smartphone or a tablet that is equipped with a camera, simply you demand to be aware of the limitations.

The biggest issues with using a smartphone or a tablet are precise focus and exposure control, likewise equally inability to zoom in tight enough to get a close-upwards shot of the Moon. Smartphones and tablets are typically designed with a single broad-angle lens, which is not specially suitable for moon photography, every bit explained below.

How to Photograph the Moon with Your iPhone

If y’all accept an iPhone with a single camera, you volition exist express to photographing the Moon as part of your composition. That’s considering iPhones with one camera are very wide in their field of view. Shooting during the day will exist easy and the composition recommendations from this article volition work.

However, if you attempt to capture the Moon at night with that wide-angle lens, you will finish up with a small white blob. That’due south because the camera volition meter off your whole scene and the Moon is just way besides small-scale of a bailiwick. In such cases, information technology might exist best to skip trying to include the Moon in your shot.

If your iPhone is equipped with a dual camera, such as the iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone X, iPhone XS, etc., so you can apply the telephoto lens to capture descent photos of the Moon.

First, zoom in to the Moon as much as you tin. Yous volition run across that the Moon will appear like a white blob. Next, touch the screen to focus on the Moon, and so in one case the yellow box with a slider appears, slide down with your finger to reduce the Moon’southward effulgence:

iPhone Moon Photography Brightness Adjustment
In one case zoomed in, pull the brightness slider downward to properly expose the Moon

Y’all should see the features of the Moon get-go to appear as y’all do that. Take a moving-picture show one time the Moon looks skillful.

Keep in mind that the Moon photograph will wait aught similar the pictures you see in this commodity. That’s because even with a telephoto lens and loftier zoom ratio, yous will end up with a Moon that looks quite small.

How to Photo the Moon with an Android Phone

Those who apply Android-powered devices volition take very similar challenges as iPhone users. All the same, typical camera apps for Android devices have more than options and more precise exposure control, which makes it easier to photograph the Moon.

If your Android telephone or tablet has a telephoto lens, your best bet is to use that one instead of the wide-bending lens to focus on the Moon. Use your camera’s congenital-in photographic camera app to arrange the shutter speed until the Moon looks properly exposed. Make certain to reduce ISO to the lowest level and if your device has aperture control, make certain to open up the lens discontinuity as broad as possible.

At present if yous accept a telescope or a pair of binoculars that yous can hold steady while pointing at the Moon, you tin technically capture the Moon with any smartphone or a tablet. Yet, don’t expect the resulting image to look peachy – y’all will most likely see heavy amounts of chromatic abnormality, as well equally damaging distortions. You might also struggle with keeping the Moon in focus.

Lastly, keep in heed that there might exist special accessories for smartphones that provide better zoom capabilities. Such accessories might be useful for moon photography, just don’t expect them to provide astonishing results…

Exposure Differences – Case Report

Allow’s now move on to how you can have a picture of the moon together with a foreground object – whether it’s a tree, a firm or a large stone. As explained earlier, the moon volition e’er await overexposed after sunset in comparing to everything else.

The merely way to capture the scene with the moon properly exposed, is to take two carve up shots of the scene – i with the foreground properly exposed and the moon overexposed and one with the moon properly exposed and the foreground objects heavily underexposed. Take a wait at the following two shots:

As yous tin see, I shot the higher up two images in two separate exposures – one with foreground properly exposed, one with the moon. Here is the combined shot that I did in Photoshop in just 2 minutes:

Combined shot
NIKON D700 @ 420mm, ISO 200, 1/3, f/vii.one

The above example is not the best one in terms of subject field and composition, just it gets the message across – you volition need to combine two exposures to create a single prototype. The toughest office is to properly mask out the Moon and to transparently merge the darker edges of the moon with the blue heaven, which should not exist a problem if y’all know how to use the correct tools within Photoshop. If the sky is as dark in both frames, and so the amount of time spent in Photoshop is minimal – all you would need to practise is copy-paste the Moon and yous are set!

Fireworks with the Full Moon
Fireworks with the Full Moon

Post-Processing Your Moon Photos

No matter how good your image comes out of the camera, I withal recommend doing some post-processing to heighten the look of your Moon image. Take a look at this photograph of the Moon, straight out of the camera:

Moon photo straight out of the camera
Image directly out of the camera

Now, take a expect at this image that I enhanced in Photoshop:

Moon photo edited in Photoshop
After the image

How did I do it? It was a simple, 2 step procedure:

  1. Image->Adjustment->Curves and selected “Medium Dissimilarity” Preset from the drop-down menu and clicked “OK”.
  2. Filter->Sharpen->Unsharp Mask and added 150% in “Amount” field, while keeping the “Radius” on ane.0 pixels and “Threshold” on 0 levels.

Very simple and quick! If y’all are a Lightroom user, y’all can achieve not bad results with even less total clicks.

Here are some basic Lightroom adjustments I recommend:

  • First off with the right Camera Profile. I personally detect “Camera Landscape” contour for my Nikon DSLR and mirrorless cameras to work the all-time for the Moon.
  • Adjust White Balance. Start with Daylight white residual and if the Moon is too orangish, movement the Temperature slider left.
  • Adjust Contrast between 10-20.
  • Don’t reduce Highlights likewise much, or the features of the Moon might start to disappear and the image will turn too dark. My recommendation is to stay under -15.
  • The same with the Shadows – don’t increase information technology too much, or you will start making the image expect too flat.
  • To boost contrast even further, add between +20 to +40 to the Whites slider, so between -twenty to -xxx to Blacks.
  • To increment surface level detail, crash-land upwardly the Texture slider to +10 and add between +5 and +10 to both Clarity and Dehaze sliders.
  • Make sure to visit the Lens Corrections tab and cheque “Remove Chromatic Aberration”. It might likewise exist a good idea to enable Lens Corrections.

Hither is how the Lightroom Bones tab looks for one of my Moon photos in this article:

Lightroom Sliders for post-processing the Moon
Lightroom Sliders in Basic Sub-Module

Lastly, don’t forget to add a bit of sharpening in the “Item” sub-module. I bumped up Radius to 2.0 while keeping “Detail” at 50 and “Amount” at 40. Brand certain to use Masking to only apply sharpening to the edges, and then that you don’t end upwardly with a bunch of noise in your images.

Moon Photography FAQ

Why Photograph the Moon?

So, why would ane desire to photograph the Moon? I was asked this question several times before and my answer is uncomplicated – because nosotros only have one Moon and it is beautiful, so why not? The Moon makes the otherwise boring dark sky wait more interesting. While photographing the Moon by itself might be somewhat ho-hum, including the Moon as an element of limerick can yield great results. In addition, there are Moon phases (crescent to full) that give even more opportunities for various compositions. And lastly, why non experiment with something new and learn how to photograph bright objects at night?

Why Does the Moon Look Smaller in Pictures?

I’m certain if you have already attempted to take a picture of the Moon, you lot probably ran into a problem where the Moon looks tiny in comparing to what you saw while taking the motion picture. Why does the Moon become photographed so much smaller? The uncomplicated answer is – you lot are probably taking a movie of the Moon with a wide-angle lens. Keep in mind that your optics are similar a 50mm fixed lens and if you are taking a motion picture with a lens that is wider in angle of view than 50mm, the Moon will be captured in smaller size! And so, if you want to capture an object like a big tree or a house with the Moon, you volition need to stand up further abroad and photograph the scene at least with a 50mm to try to match what you saw with your eyes. And fifty-fifty at 50mm, the Moon might look small, especially if it was near the horizon when you took a pic of it. This likewise happens because of a phenomenon called “Moon Illusion“, where the Moon appears bigger to your eyes, when in fact information technology is not.

Why Do I Run into the Moon as a White Blob?

If you lot take taken a picture of the Moon after dusk and it looked in like a white round object rather than the Moon, information technology is because it was overexposed. When you take a moving-picture show of the Moon with other objects in the scene, your photographic camera by default will calculate the exposure based on everything just the Moon. Take a look at the below epitome as an example:

Moonrise Mesquite Dunes
Moonrise at the Mesquite Dunes, Death Valley NP
NIKON Z 6 + NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S @ 24mm, ISO 100, four sec, f/eight.0

This happens considering the Moon is too modest in comparison to the objects around it and a unmarried spot of light typically does not affect the lite meter of your photographic camera. This is non a problem during the day, because the moon’southward brightness more or less matches the effulgence of the sky. So, why do our eyes see everything normally, while a digital camera cannot? That’southward because our optics and our brain can see a much broader range of calorie-free. In photography terms, this is known as “dynamic range”.

Which Camera Gear is Best for Moon Photography?

Yous can photograph the Moon with any photographic camera. Still, if yous want to photograph a close-up of the moon, you lot will need to use either a telescope coupled with a digital camera, or a meaty camera with a super telephoto lens, such as the Nikon P900. An interchangeable lens camera coupled with a super telephoto lens is some other pick, although it might exist the least cost-effective way to photograph the Moon.

How Do I Take Sharp Pictures of the Moon?

If you want to get a sharp photo of the Moon, y’all should first make sure to stabilize your setup to avoid whatever sort of camera milkshake. Next, you should use lens discontinuity that yields the best sharpness for your setup. Ideally, y’all should have many photos and then stack them in software to reduce the bear on of elements in the atmosphere.

Source: https://www.phototime.app/photography/how-to-photograph-the-moon/