Stars have been around for thousands of years and yet, we are still fascinated by them as well as the moon. But photographing these amazing objects can be challenging. We have a variety of tips and techniques to help you create magnificent photos of the night sky.
When photographing the night sky, you need to go manual. Your camera is struggling to see in the dark and it won’t be able to give you the optimal settings. Mistakes become even more visible in night shots than during daytime shots. When using Manual Mode, you’re free to make adjustments to the settings as needed.
Shoot low ISO
A camera will produce its highest quality images at its lowest ISO. Night photography requires you to raise the ISO in order to have enough sensitivity to gather the light in the scene. Exactly how much you need to increase the ISO depends on how dark it is outside. If the image is too dark, you need to increase the ISO more. This is why it’s beneficial to have a camera with a large sensor, such as a full frame version from Canon
, or Nikon
The aperture will need to be very wide in order to allow as much light in as possible. This is why fast lenses
from Beachcamera.com that have a maximum aperture of 2.8 or wider are recommended for night photography.
You want the sensor to gather as much light as possible, so it's best to leave the shutter open for 15-20 seconds.
This way you have the ability to adjust exposure and the white balance after the shoot.
If you prefer to adjust the white balance in the field, then you might consider a tungsten setting on your DSLR
to achieve a beautiful blue look. For a more natural result, moonlight itself closely resembles an incandescent white balance.
When shooting it’s recommended to use a shutter release
or the 2 or 10-second timer built into your camera
. Getting sharp images at night is already a challenge. You don't want to make it even harder for yourself by introducing camera shake into the mix!
Capturing the Night Sky
To get a shot of the Milky Way, use your widest lens
and Manual mode. Set ISO to 3200 and use your largest aperture. Set a shutter speed of 30 seconds, and use raw format for more flexibility when you process the shot.
You’ll need at least a 300mm lens
to capture the magnificence of the moon. With the camera on a sturdy tripod, set the main mode to Manual. For a full moon, dial in an aperture of f/11 and a shutter speed of 1/125 sec, with the ISO set to 100. Focus using AF, but switch to MF to lock the focusing distance. Use a remote or set the self-timer to 5 seconds so you’re not touching the camera when the shot is captured.
You can nail dreamy shots of the stars almost every time with a full-frame camera like the Canon 5D Mark III
or the Nikon D850
from Beachcamera.com by setting a 25 second exposure, an aperture of f/2.8, and ISO of 1600.
If you are trying to shoot star trails, you’ll need to set your exposure longer than 25 seconds.
Now grab a sturdy tripod
, wide angle lens, a camera and your imagination, and head for the stars to capture your own out of this world photos!