Moon has always been a great curiosity for the human being. It has also snatched the attention of photographers with its beauty. But, amateur photographers are mostly disappointed after taking shots of the moon as they do not know the perfect moon photography settings. So, today I shall make an endeavor to teach the amateur photographers how to photograph the moon with the ideal moon photography settings.
How to Photograph the Moon
Maybe some of you have already experienced while taking the photo of the moon that it becomes a white bulb after it is captured. There are some photos available on the internet where the moon looks really more prominent than it is supposed to be. Well, we shall discuss everything to remove all your doubts and make you a better photographer on this category.
I shall discuss how to photograph the Moon in five parts to make it an easy one to understand. The perfect moon photography settings may refer to the settings related to the camera, but I think all the settings like your mindset, placing the camera, sharing them all are settings for any photography. So we shall learn this photography with the following parts:
- Post Processing
- Share, learn and grow
Make a Good and Workable Planning
Every work should have detailed and sound planning prior to the preparation and execution. The planning should include everything necessary for the whole process so that you don’t need to stop working after finishing some steps. The photography requires some special arrangements, thus you need to make proper planning.
At the same time, you need to have some basic knowledge about a few of the factors which will dominate the quality of the photo. Let’s see what are the things we should include during our planning.
Know the Moon Phases
We can consider four main phases of the moon though we can take it up to eight with more subdivisions. A question may arise that why should we know the phases of the moon? Well, we should know the phases of the moon because the phases will tell you the availability of the moon and the duration of its appearance.
Let’s make it clear. A complete moon cycle usually has 28 days. The 28 days are divided into four quarters. If you know the Arabic date then it will be very easy to get the phase of the moon of that particular day because the Arabic calendar is based on the moon cycle. The quarters as per the sequence are as follow (main phases are made bold):
- New Moon
- Waxing Crescent
- First Quarter
- Waxing Gibbous
- Full Moon
- Waxing Gibbous
- Third Quarter
- Waning Gibbous
Each main phase consists of seven days. In the first day or night, the moon starts appearing with a very small Cresent and it gradually continues to be bigger one day by day. When it reaches to first Quarter, it becomes half. After the end of the first quarter, the Moon becomes a full moon.
Then the moon starts to reduce its size and at the end of the third quarter, it again becomes a half moon which completely disappears after the third quarter. After that, the moon starts a new beginning.
In the photo, there are total eight phases shown but I will consider four phases so that we can easily calculate the time of appearance of the moon in the sky and from when to when we are going to get the moonlight. The above picture will give you the idea about the shape of the moon each after 3 or four days from the new moon.
However, there are many websites which shall give you the accurate phase of the day of your location.
Calculating the Moon Timings
I hope after reading the previous paragraph you have understood the size of the moon according to the date. Now how long the moon will stay in the sky? Well, there are obviously websites where you can find the percentage of the illumination and the time of its appearance. But, I will teach you a very easy method by which you can easily calculate the time of appearance of the moon.
For this, you need to know the phase and date of the moon. If it is the first day of the first phase then the moon will stay in the sky from the last light up to the next 52 minutes and it will disappear after that. Last light is the time of sunset.
In the next day, the moon shall show up from the last light and will continue (2 X 52) minutes, that means on the next day it will in the sky for 104 minutes and disappear from the sky.
The gradual increase of appearance time will continue up to the full moon. After that, the moon will appear in the sky 52 minutes after the last light and will be there for the rest of the time of the night.
So in the next night, the moon will appear after (52 X 2) minutes, that means after 104 minutes from the last light. This gradual decrease will continue until the last quarter.
Find the Location of the Moon
Now you know the shape of the moon and time of its appearance. Where will be the location of the moon in the sky? Well, the development of science and apps will help you in this regard. There is an app named Sky View Free which shall help you to know the location of the moon according to the time.
If you calculate the time of appearance of the moon then you can plan where to set up the camera. This is required to plan early for a good composition. We shall talk more about composition later on.
Locate Yourself in a Good Place
Location of yourself depends on the location of the moon in the sky. When you have calculated the moon and know from where it will appear, you have to plan accordingly and select the location from where you have to shoot. Early selection of the place will save your time, help you to make a good composition and allow you to think much about moon photography.
Plan for the Best Time
Can we only photograph the moon during the night time? Well, we can photograph the moon during the day time as well. How to photograph the moon during day or night? We shall discuss those later on. Now the main point is that calculating the phase, time and location we have to select the best time for moon photography.
The blue hour or the magic hour is a great time for photographing the moon with different colors. Knowing the location of the moon and time you can plan to set your camera so that you get a very stunning shot with different colors of the sky. This is just one example, now you can use your idea to get different stunning shots during the best time for moon photography.
In this step, you need to prepare yourself for the photography. Now after having sufficient knowledge about the moon, you need to take all the required equipment for the photography so that you do not face any problem to set the perfect moon photography settings. Let’s see how to prepare yourself for moon photography.
Select a Good Camera
Obviously, you need a DSLR camera for shooting the moon. We will actually discuss how to photograph the moon with DSLR. Any DSLR can be set for the perfect moon photography settings. However, it is suggested to take a full frame sensor to utilize the full advantage of the focal length of the lens.
It will be further appreciating if the camera is a mirrorless camera because a mirrorless camera will not give any shake while closing the mirror during a shot. However, the movement of the mirror can be also stopped with mirror lock in a camera with a mirror.
Look for Telephoto Lens
Lens has to be a zoom lens. It is preferable to have a telephoto lens. The requirement of focal length varies from photographer to photographer. Someone says the lens should be minimum 200mm and someone says it should start from 300mm or even 400mm. So, I take the average, it is better to take a lens which can cover at least 300mm. You should have a good lens to avoid chromatic aberration.
As you are shooting for moon photography, you should avoid any wide angle lens. In case of a wide angle lens, you will get a nocturnal landscape or cityscape with a tiny moon. The moon will be seen as a white bulb. As the main category of photography is moon photography we have to take a telephoto lens so that the moon becomes distinct enough to serve the purpose of the category of photography.
Take a Rigid and Robust Tripod
I never consider a tripod as an external extension or additional equipment of a camera. Because this is the equipment which is required almost in all photography. The requirement of the tripod for this photography is a must because we will be capturing with a telephoto lens where the slightest movement will make a blurred photo. We must use a good quality of tripod in case of photographing the moon.
Use a Remote Trigger
I have already mentioned that we will capture with a telephoto lens where the slightest movement of the camera will make the photo a blurred one. With the help of a tripod we can stop the movement of the camera, but the moment we are going to press the trigger then surely there will be a movement of the camera which may cause the photo to be a blurred one. To get rid of this shake and to achieve a sharp image we have to use a remote trigger.
Use Teleconverter as Alternative
A teleconverter acts as a magnifying lens which sits between the camera and the main lens. This is a cost-effective way to increase the apparent focal length of the lens you are using. By using a teleconverter you can magnify the focal length by 2X. However, the sharpness of the image will not be as sharp as the photo taken with the actual lens.
But as a whole, a teleconverter acts great for photographing moon if you want it really close. However, it is not mandatory to have a teleconverter. It gives you the flavor of a long focal length lens with less expense. If you want to know more about teleconverter please visit the Nikon page where you will get more information about this.
Now you know a lot about how to photograph the moon and you are prepared with all necessary pieces of knowledge. This is the time when you will go for the main action where you will set your knowledge and equipment practically to have the perfect moon photography settings.
Let’s see how to utilize our knowledge and equipment for better moon photography after setting your camera in the right location and aiming for the right direction of the sky at the right time.
Know the Fundamentals For Moon Photography Settings
The fundamental settings for moon photography contain very basic ideas. I hope everyone has already acquired sufficient knowledge about the basic pillars of photography i.e. ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. However, I will touch upon those points in a short frame.
Mostly we see the moon at night and with this idea, we may think of selecting a higher ISO for the Moon photography. But, we should not use a higher range of ISO here. If you want to increase the ISO 400-600 will be enough. Most of the time you will not only capture the moon only, but there will also be many things included with the moon in the frame. In that case, you will get enough light to keep the ISO at a lower range.
However, if you capture the moon only then the moon will provide sufficient light to keep the ISO to a lower scale. You must have good knowledge about selecting ISO because setting a fixed ISO will not let you discover more. You should get the proper learning about ISO because this is not only required for moon photography rather it is essential and very vital for every category of photography.
Do you really need to have a deep knowledge of selecting the perfect aperture size for learning how to photograph the moon? Yes, obviously you need to. The sharpness and depth of field depending on aperture size. You should try to use a narrow aperture as one of the Moon photography settings to get a bigger depth of field. Remember, the narrow aperture will provide less light on the image sensor and a big depth of field.
The phenomenon will be reverse on selecting a wider aperture. If you keep anything other than the moon in your frame then selecting a narrow aperture is recommended. But if your intention is to capture the moon only then you may select a wider aperture which will give you a sharp image of the moon.
This is another fundamental pillar of photography. To get a very sharp photo of the moon you should try to select a very fast shutter speed. Otherwise, you will have a blurred image. Why should you bother of selecting a shutter speed as one of the important moon photography settings? Well, the relative movement of the moon as seen with naked eyes is very negligible. But, when you look closer especially with a lens having a bigger focal lens will show you the movement clearly.
Make a good Combination of the Fundamentals
There is a relation between the three fundamentals of photography which you should know before any kind of photography. This combination is very basic for any photography. The chemistry of these three fundamentals will dictate the quality of output of any category of photography. The relationship is usually shown with an exposure triangle.
Make a Good Composition
A good composition can change the total value of an image. You must distribute the components of the frame in a nice fashion. The Rule of Thirds is the most preferable composition to follow. However, there are many composition rules to make nice photography. You should surf the internet to see and learn some good composition examples of this photo which will give you an idea about it.
Shot with Variable Exposure Compensation
Exposure Compensation is an important topic you should learn to maintain the minimal exposure for your photography. This is related to the combination of the fundamentals. There are certain things to know for exposure compensation. I will no longer discuss the topic here, you can get detailed knowledge about exposure compensation from 10 Striking Questions and Answers about Exposure Compensation.
The remote trigger may become a device with a chord. Nowadays most of the camera has wifi which allows the photographer to control the camera with his mobile phone or a laptop. No matter if none of these are present in your camera because you can perform the same action with the self-timer of the camera. You can very well select 2-5 seconds of the timer and this will avoid the shake created by your hand while pressing the trigger.
When you are complete with shooting and ready to upload you must think of post-processing with Photoshop or any other software. There are lots of tutorials available on YouTube. However, you can simply edit photos with many online photo editors. Post processing with online photo editor may not be a professional work but initially, it may help you a lot. but it is recommended to learn the photoshop editing and edit there.
Share, Learn and Grow
Once you are done with your photography and editing, start sharing those with your friends and others. Try to share those in some good groups on different social media. Your work will be appreciated by many and will be criticized even seriously criticized by many.
Take the appreciation as inspiration and take criticism as a correction. There are a lot of people out there who know better about it. So do not bother about their criticism and take necessary step for the next shot.
So far I have tried to go detail discussion as far as possible. However, there are not only tips or guidelines for moon photography. There are lots of brighter ideas too. So, I finally suggest you check different examples of moon photography to perfectly know how to photograph the moon.
At the same time, it is my suggestion to keep on experimenting. Your mistakes will teach you the most. I hope it will help you to get the perfect moon photography settings.