This guest post was written by Laura Charon. Laura is an avid photographer who has been taking pictures for years—first with an old brownie camera and more recently with a Canon Digital Rebel XTi. You can read more of Laura’s posts at Beyond Megapixels. Contact me if you are interested in guest writing for Photodoto. -John
At one point or another, most photographers take a stab at photographing the moon. They’ve got their digital SLR, their tripod, their timer or remote shutter release, and a bright moon in the sky. Yet, often, the resulting photograph is an overexposed blob on a black background, a flat disc lacking in dimension, or a grey image lacking in crater detail.
Here are a handful of tips that I’ve learned in trying to capture an interesting shot of the moon.
One – Affix your camera with a telephoto lens – 300mm, at least, if you want the moon to fill the frame, though you can photograph decent moon shots with most kit lenses as well. A 2x converter works excellently to supplement a lens, and is a very inexpensive option.
Two – Though many digital cameras have an automatic setting for night shots, you’ll capture a photograph that has far more quality if you manually set ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. Start with an ISO of 100. The moon is the light source, and is brighter to your camera than you might think, so the risk of getting a grainy shot at a higher ISO is removed. Set the aperture at about f/11 (the higher the aperture, the less sharp the image), and exposure at 1/125. This is a “rule of thumb”, so you’ll probably fiddle around with these settings a bit. Also, set your camera to manual focus – auto focus sometimes gets confused on moon shots. Take some shots, and tweak aperture and shutter speed as appropriate.
Three – Long exposure is a given, since you’re photographing at night, but you might actually require less exposure than you’d think. Somewhat UNDERexposing a shot will allow you to amp up (or, down) the contrast and curves during post-processing, which will bring forth crater detail. Also, keep in mind that the moon does move across the sky as the evening progresses, so longer exposures (longer than 1/15, approximately) will capture this movement in the form of slight blurring.
Four – Shoot various phases of the moon. The side-lighting that occurs during the moon’s various phases offers a dramatic subject for your images. Adjust for exposure – a longer exposure will probably be required than what would be used during a full moon because, intuitively, a half or quarter-moon throws less light than a full moon. Also, shoot the moon at various stages in the night sky – a moon closer to the horizon appears “larger” to the naked eye, and therefore to your camera’s lens, due to the magnification effect of the atmosphere combined with the curve of the Earth. Shooting earlier in the evening often also produces interesting lighting effects in the night sky, other than flat black.
I hope that these simple tips assist you in capturing the image of the moon that you’re shooting for. Even though it’s an oft-photographed subject, the moon will forever continue to draw our interest, our eyes, and therefore, our lenses.
Photo Credits (in order of appearance):
- “Lune/Moon” by OliBac on Flickr (Licensed Creative Commons)
- “The Bird and the Moon II” by Flowery Luza on Flickr (Licensed Creative Commons)
- “Crescent Moon” by Lrargerich on Flickr (Licensed Creative Commons)
About the author: Laura Charon. Website: http://beyondmegapixels.com/