5 Tips to photograph the moon

Photographing the moon is tricky business, there are so many different variables but here are my 5 basic tips.

  1. Use the longest lens that you have available. A 200mm or 300mm lens is the shortest you really want to use. If you do not have a big lens, you can always rent one for the occasion. Have the moon as large as possible in the frame and make sure autofocus is off. It is often easier to manually focus than let the camera try to focus. Depending upon your camera, you may have a live view option where you can zoom in and dial in the focus ring, rather than just looking through the viewfinder.

    The moon captured over Arizona using a 300mm lens
    The moon captured over Arizona using a 300mm lens.
  2. Smaller aperture and faster shutter speed. The moon is highlighted by the sun, that is what makes it so bright. As it is such a bright subject, the usual night time photography rules do not apply.  To capture the moon, a smaller aperture, generally an aperture of f11 or f13  work best. Shutter speed should be between 1/120th to 1/320th to allow you to make the best capture. Leave the ISO low so that the image is not affected with noise. Of course, these are just guidelines. Use these as a starting point and play around to figure out which settings you prefer.

    paulkporterphotography - Tips to photograph the moon-2
    The Blood moon captured over Whistler April 2014. This 2-second exposure captures the colours, but the detail is lost.
  3. Use a tripod. You can shoot the moon with the camera in your hand, but it is easier on your arms, mounting the camera on a tripod. With your lens fully extended, even the smallest movement makes a big difference. By using a tripod, you can make the minute changes without affecting the overall image.  Remember that the moon is constantly moving so you will have to keep moving the camera around, but having it on a tripod will help.

    I wanted to catch the drama of the bloodmoon and how it highlighted the atmosphere with a red hugh. For this, I zoomed out and focused on the scene instead of just the moon.
    I wanted to catch the drama of the Blood moon and how it highlighted the atmosphere with a red hue. For this, I zoomed out and focused on the scene instead of just the moon.
  4. Use a remote. If you have a remote or a shutter release cable, this will help keep the camera very steady. Regardless of how gently the shutter is pressed by a finger, there is potential for motion blur. Even though it is a short shutter speed, focusing on a tiny moon with the lens fully zoomed, any movement can effect the final image. If you do not have a remote, you can use the camera’s timer function. If your camera has a ‘mirror up’ mode, this should also be used. This means that the camera mirror will be raised before the shutter is opened, meaning one less thing to allow the slightest of movements and that the image will be as sharp as possible.

    All points come together for this image. 200mm lens, mounted on a tripod. The mirror was raised and a remote was used. This was actually 1/320 f11 ISO 100
    All points come together for this image. A lens at 200mm mounted on a tripod. The mirror was raised and a remote was used. This was 1/320 f11 ISO 100
  5. Crop, edit and share. Technically these are tips 5, 6 and 7 but you get my point. Unless you have a huge lens, the moon will still be relatively small in the frame. On the computer, it is time to zoom in and crop the image so that the moon is bigger. Once you are happy with the final image, share it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. For me, sharing is the most fun part of photography.
    Before crop
    Image before cropping. Shot using a lens at 200mm.
    After crop
    After crop, the moon fully occupies the frame.

    Not every image will be as sharp or as perfect as you would like it to be, that is photography for you. Just keep practising.

    paulkporterphotography - Tips to photograph the moon-8
    This is one one of my earlier images of a supermoon over Whistler. I like this image even though the moon is blown out, it shows how big the moon was over Whistler and the Peak to Peak Gondola.

    If you look outside this evening and can see the moon, why not head out and take some pictures. You never know what you might make.

    Let me know where you share your images, I would love to see what you come up with. I hope you find these tips useful. Let me know if you are interested in getting more out of your camera and how I may be able to help you 🙂

    Paul

    http://www.paulkporterphotography.com

    And remember to follow my journey 🙂

    Instagram: @pauliespics

    #paulies365   #explorewithpaul   #paulkporterphotography

    Twitter: @pkpphoto

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