Taking Pictures Of The Milky Way

By | 31/10/2022

How to photo the Milky Way: A guide for beginners and enthusiasts

How to photograph the Milky Way



(Prototype credit: Tom Ormerod)

Even though you might not be able to come across it with the naked eye, photographing the Galaxy isn’t as difficult as information technology showtime seems. Information technology’southward like shooting fish in a barrel to notice remarkable pictures online of the Milky Way glistening brightly, fronted past a woods or other landmark, and go despondent… only it is easier to capture than yous might think. With a chip of planning and practice anyone with a photographic camera – especially one of the best cameras for astrophotography – and a decent lens can capture the Galaxy. Be warned, however, that running around in the night chasing the glowing arm of our milky way can become addictive!

There are lots of things you can try as you get better at Galaxy shooting, simply this guide will go you upward and running from a continuing start. There aren’t actually that many differences between shooting the Milky Way and regular astrophotography, although the timings and direction you shoot in demand to be considered. If you’re merely getting started and want the nuts, nosotros do accept a
beginners guide to astrophotography.

  • Read more:
    Milky Mode: Facts and images

Basic equipment for shooting the Milky way

These days information technology is possible to capture the night heaven with a telephone photographic camera, especially more than modern ones with a dedicated ‘night mode’, merely for this guide nosotros volition focus (alibi the pun) on using a standard interchangeable lens DSLR or mirrorless camera. You’ll demand:

  1. A camera – whatsoever DSLR or Mirrorless photographic camera will be fine
  2. A ‘fast’ lens – that’s one with an aperture rating ( f/ number) of f/2.8 or faster. Mostly, nosotros advise a wider lens (24mm or less) for beginners, as they are easier to work with when starting out
  3. A tripod – near tripods are fine, but make sure information technology tin hold your camera completely still! Nosotros have a guide to the
    best tripods
    for astro.
  4. A remote shutter release – y’all can employ a wired, wireless or phone app release. Your camera’s built-in self-timer is a good alternative.
  5. A head torch with a ruby light mode – not essential, but information technology can make a huge difference, as scarlet light doesn’t affect your natural night vision.

We recommend a wider lens for beginners, as they're generally easier to work with in astrophotography.

(Epitome credit: Getty Images)

Planning your shoot

Once you’ve got all your kit together, you will need to do some planning. Things you need to find include: a clear sky, a dark sky location, and the visible part of the Galaxy in the sky. This means having your camera facing the correct manner and at the correct angle, which isn’t always obvious.

The Milky Way Season is generally considered to exist February to Oct. There are lots of factors that impact its visibility, depending on your location and the time of year, but we’d recommend using an app such every bit Photopills, Star Walk two, SkySafari 6 Pro, or Stellarium to pick the right time to go outside based on your location. In general, the Milky Way Core will exist to the s, so proceed that in mind when planning your shot.

Adjacent you lot need a dark site (one with as fiddling light pollution as possible), and there are diverse websites that tin assist with this such as Nighttime Site Finder and Low-cal Pollution Map.

Finally, you demand a clear sky, then keep an middle on the weather forecast!

How to shoot the Milky Way

(Paradigm credit: Tom Omerod)

Get your ready-upward correct

Before you leave the house, get your photographic camera prepare. This saves much fumbling about in the dark while maybe wearing gloves. Fix your camera to Manual (One thousand) mode, make certain you lot are shooting in raw, and turn your screen brightness down to its minimum.

It tin can be a good idea to do the basic process in the nighttime in your garden or somewhere close to home earlier heading out.

Mount your camera on the tripod  – non always piece of cake in the night when the photographic camera, lens and tripod are all colored black – and do focusing on the stars in the dark. You volition almost certainly need to learn manual focus, which can be quite a barrier for some people, though digital cameras assist immensely thanks to the screen on the back which ways you don’t take to contort to peer through the viewfinder. Choice a vivid star (or
very
afar low-cal), use any sort of focus zoom you can (near cameras have this) and adjust the focus until the star/calorie-free appears as small as possible.  Alternatively, if you know the exact infinity focus point on your lens you could utilise that, but be sure to check it’s correct. When you lot are using a zoom lens, yous will almost always need to refocus if you change the focal length.

Milky Way Photography

(Image credit: Tom Ormerod)

Bones settings for shooting the Milky Way

Your exact settings will vary night by night, only you need to ever employ the widest/fastest (everyman f/ number) aperture your lens volition let. If this is f/2, and yous are in an surface area with a piffling lite pollution, then we would recommend starting with f/2, ISO 3200 and 15 seconds.

ISO 1600-6400 is normally used by Milky Manner shooters, only recollect that the college the ISO the more noise you volition get, though some modern mirrorless cameras have made remarkable strides in producing make clean high-ISO images. We have a guide to reducing noise in astrophotography, if you need it.

Your shutter speed is important, equally if you go out it open up for too long the stars will kickoff to trail, especially at the edges of the frame. Utilize 500 divided past your lens’ focal length (for full frame, endeavor 300 for crop-frame) to get the maximum exposure time to avoid trailing. Alternatively, a picayune trial and error can be applied – keep adjusting the shutter speed and checking the resulting picture. Zoom in and, as presently as the stars get ovals, you lot know you have gone too far.

How to photograph the Milky Way

(Epitome credit: Tom Omerod)

Tips for your first shoot

Become on site during daylight hours if yous can, to scout out your spot and get set-up safely. Lock your tripod legs in position, use a compass to make sure you’re facing the right way, mount your camera, connect your shutter release and bank check everything is secure.

One time it’due south nighttime enough that the stars become visible, focus on them and compose your last shot. By temporarily setting the ISO very loftier (ISO 12,000 or even greater if your photographic camera supports information technology) you lot can take a quick (ii-3 sec) exam shot to check your focus and composition, before discarding it. It was probably very noisy, but served a purpose.

Finally, dial in your main settings and shoot. Review the prototype for pin-sharp stars, making sure they are not blurry (cheque focus) or showtime to trail (increment the shutter speed).  Also don’t forget the basics like direct horizons and  keeping some foreground involvement in the frame.

Night sky image over circle of stones

(Epitome credit: Stuart Cornell)

Editing your Galaxy photos

Almost digital photos, and all raw images, will do good from editing, and this is peculiarly true of those attempting to capture the Galaxy. Recall editing is very much a personal preference, and then practise non be afraid to experiment. And check out our reviews of the best photograph editing apps.

The first thing to do later on importing files is to adjust the white residual. This is something you can simply do if yous’ve shot raw files – JPEG shooters are stuck with the setting from the camera – and can make a huge divergence to the colors in an epitome. Somewhere between 4000k-5000K commonly works well. You lot will almost certainly need to increase the exposure, and we usually find shots need to be pushed past one or ii stops.

We usually decrease the highlights and increment the contrast and shadows a little, to really being out the details of the grit lanes and vivid spots in the Milky Way.  If you lot are comfy using radial gradients, then they can be fantastic for adding some actress touches to the concluding result. Endeavor adjusting the clarity, dehaze and whites sliders to make the Galaxy pop a fleck more. Recall that information technology is meant to exist white, against a dark groundwork, so if yous’re trying to retain the proper colors, don’t go crazy with any colour adjustments. Don’t, however, exist agape to experiment – the best thing near raw image processing is that information technology’s entirely non-subversive, and you can always get back to your original image, or simply use the Undo button, if you experience you lot’ve made a error.

How to photograph the Milky Way

This shot shows the before and subsequently versions of the aforementioned photo.

(Image credit: Tom Omerod)

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Family man Tom lives in Bournemouth on the southward coast of England. As an Olympus OM-D Mentor and Astrophotography workshop/webinar leader he spends a big amount of fourth dimension sharing his knowledge and passion for the nighttime sky and landscape photography.  Tom is well known for his enthusiasm and friendliness, encouraging the social side of photography as much as the creative and technical aspects.

Source: https://www.space.com/how-to-photograph-the-milky-way-beginners-tips-tricks