Photographing the moon a complete how to guide including settings

A How-To Guide for Photographing the Moon

Photographing the moon. The moon is the perfect example of the photographic tease. It is there in the sky every night, hanging up right there in front of our eyes, all bright and big. And then you try to click a photograph of it and all you get is a small and pathetic white blob amidst all darkness and a sea of noise. This is one of the most frustrating things especially when there are some special nights like the harvest moon or the blood moon etc.

While photographing the moon may be a daunting task to some photographers, it is one of the most rewarding kinds of photographic experiences. Well, that is when you get the picture right! If you are just beginning out your luck in photographing the moon, here are some tips that can help you capture some amazing shots along with the camera settings you will need.

Photographing the moon a complete how to guide including settings

Photographing the moon

The When and Where to Photograph the Moon

It is necessary to take a picture of the moon when the night is clear. Even a thin layer of clouds will not allow you to capture a clear picture of the moon. Another thing that disrupts the photographs of the moon is pollution. Therefore, the best place to take photos of the moon is outside the city where the pollution cannot hinder your efforts to get an amazing crisp clear shot. It is also best to get on some high elevation from the ground to get as much close to the moon as possible. You can click the moon anytime of the day you want, as long as the sky is clear and the moon itself is visible. Night photos, however, are the most beautiful. 

The Equipment You Need

Here is a list of some basic equipment you need when photographing the moon.

  • A tripod to keep things stable
  • A DSLR or Mirrorless
  • A telephoto lens, ideally more than 200mm. Or you can choose a shoot camera that has the capability of optical zooming 

If you are looking to capture photos that show the surface of the moon in great detail, you will have to invest in a 200mm + lens. To click sharp images of the moon, you need to keep the camera stable and free from shake. Thus, using a tripod is essential. It is also suggested to use a remote camera trigger to click the photos to ensure the camera is not disturbed. If you don’t have one, you can also set the camera on the timer mode to take your hands off it when clicking the photo.

Photographing the moon a complete how to guide including settings

Photo by David Besh

The Settings

Here are the camera settings that will help you capture the best and sharpest images of the moon. Keep in mind these are base settings and will variate per camera and situation. Remember to start off here and experiment to get the perfect shot. 

Mode: Set the camera to full manual mode when you are clicking photos of the moon.

ISO: Set the ISO to its native setting (it is 100 for most cameras). Turn off your auto ISO to keep the noise to a minimum.

Aperture: Set the aperture speed to f5.6

Shutter Speed: The shutter speed for a camera with 100 ISO should be 1/160 

Lens Focus: Set the focus of your lens to infinity after setting it to manual focus (only do this if autofocus does not work). If your camera offers a ‘live-view with contract detect’ feature, use it to get the best focus of the moon. If not, set the focus to the center of the infinity sign and check for sharpness of the image.

Photographing the moon a complete how to guide including settings

Photo by Bruno Scramgnon

Post-Processing

No matter how great the photograph appears, you will need to touch it up a little in a post-processing session. This enhances the look of the moon and the overall image quality.

Give it some sharpness and clarity to bring out all the details.  If you like the color of the moon the way it is, leave it if you want to brighten it up a bit, bring up the vibrancy slider in Lightroom. You can also use one of our Lightroom Presets to beautify your photos. 

These were some basic tips to help you capture some great shots of the moon. These settings are ideal to get started and with some minor tweaking, you will be able to get the perfect shot. Try these out and let us know how your photos came out in the comments below.

Do not forget to check out our other tutorials where we cover just about every aspect of photography.

About the Author

Edin Chavez
Travel junkie, animal lover, troublemaker, daydreamer and a bit obsessed with my camera. Addicted to documentaries, coffee, hot sauce, and blue cheese.
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