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Night Sky Photography: Tips to Get You Started

Night Sky Photography: Tips to Get You Started

If you’ve ever pointed your camera at the night sky and taken a shot, you’ll know that there’s more to getting a good star photo than simply being in the right place at the right time. For someone new to night photography, sorting out the seemingly technical process can be overwhelming. But don’t panic! With a few simple tips, great shots of the stars are easily within your reach.

Tips to Get You Started with Night Sky Photography

Essential Gear

Use a high-quality wide-angle lens from Your lens can make or break an otherwise perfect photo. A wide angle lens has a large field of view. It allows you to frame more of your subject like the Milky Way, a planet, or the night sky at large. Look for something that offers a focal length of 35mm or less. The smaller the focal length, the less sensitive your camera’s light sensor will be to the movement of the earth. Your camera’s light sensor will be especially sensitive to all sources of light when the world around you is dark. To diminish issues like lens flare, invest in a lens hood. These block light from outside your field of view so that light doesn’t compromise your photograph. A fog filter is typically used to create a mysterious, ominous, or otherwise dramatic effect in landscape photography. At night, however, fog filters can sometimes make stars appear larger, which makes it easier for viewers to pick out the constellation or stars in your image. When you’re taking a photo that includes stars as the only source of light in the frame, try using a star filter. It will create a “pointed” effect on the stars, making them appear pronounced and luminous.  

Dial in Your Settings

Adjust your camera settings to capture extra light. Open the aperture wide. Select the highest ISO- 1600 or above. Use a shutter speed that allows your camera to catch excess light. 30 seconds is a good place to start.


Even though you’re essentially pointing your camera at infinity, it’s best to play it safe and manually focus your shot. Switch to live view on your camera from and zoom in on your scene so that you can make extra-fine focusing adjustments. Be prepared to play around with your settings a bit once you’re out there shooting.

Tips to Get You Started with Night Sky Photography

Stay Still

Because you’re using a slow shutter speed, your shots are particularly susceptible to motion blur, so staying still is key. Mount your camera on a sturdy tripod. Once you’ve chosen the scene you want to shoot, lock the camera in place. Use a wireless remote shutter release so you don’t even have to touch the camera!

Tips to Get You Started with Night Sky Photography

Get Out of Town

Find a location free of light pollution that washes out your view of stars, planets, and constellations. Unless you’re shooting cityscapes, you’ll get the best results steering 30-50 miles clear of cities, suburbs, and well-traveled or lighted roads.

Add a Foreground

Shots of a night sky can be made extra interesting when you add something to the foreground. This not only gives extra visual interest, but helps to give perspective and anchor the viewer so they don’t feel like they’re just floating in space. A house, a line of trees, or a mountain can all add some variety to your shot.

Tips to Get You Started with Night Sky Photography

Shooting the night sky isn’t hard to do! Pick a great spot, wait for a beautiful night, get your settings and then enjoy capturing the universe in your camera!  

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