Getting a good photo of the moon is a huge achievement for any photographer, but simply pointing and shooting on auto-mode does not do the job. Often people take photos of the moon, which end up looking like a white dot in the sky, and this can be so annoying because you see a beautiful moon with your eyes but a dot on the image.
The type of photo of the moon you will take largely affects the photography method you will need to learn on how to photograph the moon. Capturing close-up pictures of the moon is a bit more challenging than taking pictures with the moon as just an element. Today, we will be discussing taking close-up shots of the moon in more detail since it is more complex.
Gear You Need to Take Photos of the Moon
Although you should never let your gear discourage you from experimenting with your photography, if you can get hold on of some camera gear, it will make your experience of photographing the moon very smooth. Here are a few things you may want to have on your hands when you plan to take photos of the moon.
Most cameras will do an okay job when it comes to taking pictures of the moon with the right settings, but having a full-frame camera helps A LOT. Since full-frame camera sensors are much bigger than crop sensors, it allows much more light in. As a result, photos taken by full-frame cameras come out much cleaner with lower grain and noise. You can find some great reviews of the full-frame camera for moon shots on techwhippet.com.
Additionally, try to get a camera with a good image processor, so the low-light performance is amazing. Hence, even photos taken with ISO settings will look crisp and free of noise.
If you want to take stunning shots of the Moon, you will need a longer zoom lens! To be precise, try to get a camera with a focal length greater than 200 mm. Getting a zoom lens with a focal length from 75 mm to 300 mm is a good option, and you may even get it at an affordable price if you buy it used.
Buying a tripod is the first thing you should do if you want to photograph the moon. You will probably end up with a bunch of blurry shots if you try to take handheld photos of the moon with your camera. Tripods aren’t usually all that pricey either, so go and get yourself a sturdy tripod if you don’t have one already.
Shutter Release Cable/Wireless Remote
This piece of gear is optional, but it is to prevent your camera from accidentally shaking that could ruin your shots by blurring them. A timer can do this job, but still, a shutter release cable or a wireless remote does it better.
How to Photograph the Moon
As you can probably tell, camera settings are the most important in taking not only photos of the moon but all photos in general. Here is a step-by-step process on how to photograph the moon, from setting up your gear to adjusting the settings.
Step 1: Set File Type to Raw and Shift to Manual Focus
Although RAW files take up a lot of space, we would suggest you shoot your moon pictures in RAW, so you have more flexibility when editing your photos. Secondly, you want to shift to manual focus when doing moon photography so you can get the sharpest photos.
Step 2: Attach a Lens with a Long Focal Length
Pick up a zoom lens of your choice; anything with a focal length greater than 200 mm will do. If you want, you can even use a telephoto lens with a focal length of 500 mm.
Step 3: Set your ISO as low as possible
To reduce grain in your image, set your ISO setting to 100 or below if possible. You may have to bump up the ISO by a bit in some cases, but as long as it’s not very high, it’s fine.
Step 4: Selecting the Aperture, and Shutter Speed
Setting the aperture in moon photography anywhere between f/11 to f/16 is the sweet spot to keep everything sharp. You may have to change the aperture to somewhere between f/5.6 to f/8 in poor condition, but still, the images should be fine.
You need to trial and error with the shutter speed a bit, but you will find the best setting between 1/125th to 1/60th.
Step 5: Set up Your Camera on the Tripod
Fix your tripod on flat ground if you can, and position your camera in a way so that it doesn’t move at all. Then turn the timer on, or use the wireless remote to take the photos.
With the techniques and instructions you have learned from our guide on how to photograph the moon, it is also very important for you to keep your creative side open and enjoy the experience. Tweak the settings however you feel is the best for your style, and get your marvelous shots of the moon, and don’t forget to check out our naked eye skywatching guide here.