astrophotography

Camera Settings for Astrophotography: Northern Lights Photography, Milky Way Photography, Star Trails Photography

Astrophotography is one of the best ways to break the routine and reward yourself with novel experiences that inspire beautiful creations. It transports you to another world while you photograph the astronomical objects, celestial events, and areas of the night sky on your trip to new & exotic places.

From Moon Photography and Star Trails Photography to Milky Way Photography and Northern Lights Photography, Astrophotography helps you discover, capture and reveal the mysterious beauty of our universe.

astrophotography

Photo by Chris Slagle, landscape photographer and Grand Prize Winner of the 2020 AAA World Photo Contest. For more such amazing images, do check his Instagram profile here instagram.com/chrisslagle_/

How to photograph the Milky Way

Milky Way Photography is capturing the band of light formed from the stars seen in the clear, cloudless night sky (with no moon) of remote areas/countryside that has minimal light pollution.

Below is the recommended setting for Milky Way Photography:

Camera Settings – A Tripod is needed, use a wide angle lens i.e. focal length of 14 mm or the widest focal length available in your camera, Aperture: f/2.8, Shutter Speed: 30 sec, ISO 3200, set the focus to infinity (you will find the infinity symbol ∞ on your camera lens).

Pro tip: To avoid a blur image caused by the motion of the stars (due to earth’s rotation) and use of long exposure/slow shutter speed, go for the 500 rule/focal length.

For instance – in the above mentioned setting, 14mm is the focal length, so 500/14 = 35 sec, so shutter speed should be lower than 35 sec, so you can use 30 sec.

How to focus to infinity without indicator

If you don’t have the infinity symbol ∞ on your camera, then you can find the infinity focus and mark it on your camera. Here’s how:

  • Turn your AF (Autofocus) mode on
  • Go for Single Focus Point and select center focus point
  • During daytime, point your camera (preferably mounted on a tripod) with the Single Focus Point on the top of a pillar, lighthouse, tree, mountain or a tower that is set against the skyline (Keep the top of the pillar in the center of the frame)
  • The AF mode will try to find focus on the top of the pillar
  • Through the viewfinder/Live View Shoot Mode, when you see your subject/pillar appearing sharp, halfway press the shutter button to lock the focus (the focus has been set to infinity)
  • Now, quickly mark that point on the focus ring with a marker or a tape (you’ve marked your infinity focus)
  • Turn AF (Autofocus) mode to MF (Manual Focus) mode
  • When doing astrophotography, use MF (Manual Focus) mode, move your focus ring manually and stop at the marked infinity focus to capture a sharp image
focus to infinity
How to focus to infinity without indicator

Note: After I marked the infinity focus on my focus ring (Canon 1500D) – I found out that when I move my focus ring to the extreme left (hard stop of the camera’s focus ring which is the place at which the focus ring will turn no further) and then move it back by a centimeter to the right, there lies my infinity focus.

(Always try to get sharp images coz if your images aren’t sharp, even post-processing in Lightroom won’t help to correct/enhance your image)

milky way photography

Photo by Daniel Damschen, Product Designer and a Photographer. For more such amazing images, do check his Instagram profile here instagram.com/damschend/

How to photograph Star Trails

For Star Trails photography which is capturing the circular movement of stars in the night sky – choose a night with no moon, a dimly lit location, go for long exposure/slow shutter speed, use a foreground for better composition, wide angle lens & a tripod and set the focus to infinity.

Option 1: Use the Bulb Mode

Bulb mode is a shutter speed option for long exposures/very slow shutter speed that you can use only in Manual mode. For instance, if you want keep the shutter open for longer periods than 30 sec, go for Bulb Mode. In this mode, as long as you keep the shutter button pressed before taking the shot that much long will be the exposure.

Shutter speeds for a star trail, ranges from anywhere between 10 minutes to several hours.

Camera Settings: Use the widest Aperture: f/3.5 or less, Bulb Mode: 30 min exposure/shutter speed, ISO: 200. You will need a remote shutter release/cable release that allows you to lock the shutter button for long exposures like 30 min without having to keep the shutter button pressed with your finger for longer periods.

Alternatively, if you don’t want to use a very long exposure/slow shutter speed, you can increase the ISO.

Option 2: Use the Intervalometer

Instead of Bulb mode, you can use an intervalometer which is an advanced remote shutter release that automatically triggers the shutter at timed intervals.

How to use Intervalometer/Recommended Setting

Set the Shutter Speed to 30 secs and set the intervalometer to take 100 shots continuously at an interval of 1 sec to avoid breaks between trails. Seasoned Photographers take many pictures using intervalometer and combine them during post processing to create the final star trail image.

How to photograph the Northern Lights

northern lights

Photo by Chris O’Donnell, an Engineer and a Photographer. For more such amazing images, do check his Instagram profile here instagram.com/christophurous/

Known by various names – northern lights, polar lights and aurora borealis, it is a natural light display in the dark skies of high-latitude regions. You can take pictures of this spectacular ballet of light with a colour palette of green, violet, blue, and pink in places closer to the Arctic Circle – Iceland, Norway, Alaska, Greenland, Sweden, Finland and Canada.

For photographing Northern Lights – you need a place where the sky is dark, clear with no clouds. If you’re planning a trip to Iceland, mid-October through March (winter months) is the best time which increases your chances of seeing the northern lights due to extended hours of night time and clear cloudless night skies. You can check with the locals or check the aurora forecast apps/websites for predicted aurora activity.

For your Iceland winter trip, you will need layered clothing – thermal wear, wind and waterproof jackets with a hoodie, winter boots, woollen socks & gloves, a thermos for keeping hot tea/beverages. Remember to carry spare camera batteries (batteries die fast in cold climate), a rain cover for your camera and a flashlight.

Camera Settings:

Use a tripod, wide angle lens and set the focus to infinity. To avoid camera shake/blur images, use a remote shutter release or self-timer mode. Use Aperture: f/2.8 or the lowest f-number you can get on your camera, Shutter Speed: 20 sec, ISO 1600. Experiment with the settings – if the image has come out too bright, then lower the ISO or increase the shutter speed. On the other hand, if your image has come out too dark, increase your ISO or use a slower shutter speed.

Bonus: Night photography tips

Light trail photography settings

While photographing the street at night, the scene would look very dark. So, your DSLR camera’s light meter will brighten up the exposure to maintain 18% gray and result in a washed-out image. You will have to dial down Exposure Compensation (EC) to -3, -4 or -5 to make the photograph resemble the natural night scene. You can also use the self-timer mode to avoid camera shake/blur image.

light trail photography

Aperture: f/11, ISO: least ISO (Lo1), Shutter Speed: 25 secs, EC: -5

Fireworks photography settings

Aperture (mid-small) f/8 to f/16, ISO 100, Bulb Mode: keep the shutter button pressed until the firework sequence ends & then release the button. (Use a tripod and remote shutter release to avoid camera shake/blur image)

Alternatively, you can experiment with ISO settings from 400 to1600 using a wide aperture and fast shutter speed.

We bring you ‘Jo & His Camera’ Comic Strips wherein a Magical Camera gives DSLR photography tutorials to an aspiring photographer named Jo.

Click on the below Image to see the Comic wherein the Camera explains Jo, the concept of Astrophotography with the help of practical examples.

northern lights

When you do photography: Remember the 5E’s – Explore, Experiment, Experience, Enjoy & Express to develop your own style as a photographer.

Do Share The Learning – Like It, Post It, Pin It, Tweet It!

Have you tried astrophotography, yet? We would love to know about your experiences, do share them in the comment box below.

Did this blog help you with some ideas to improve your photography skills? For more useful photography tips, examples, ideas & inspiration, please subscribe below to receive notifications of new blog posts by email. Thank you!

Camera Settings for Moon Photography

How to Take Moon-ingful Photographs at Night? Go-to Camera Settings for Moon Photography

Moon Photography

As photographers, we have the power to capture the beauty of our universe and share it with the world!

Astrophotography is the photography of astronomical objects, celestial events, and areas of the night sky which includes Moon Photography, Star Trails Photography, Milky Way Photography, Northern Lights Photography and more. We’ve already covered Sun Photography in our earlier blog, now let’s dive into Moon Photography.

Best Camera Settings for Moon Photography

Moon is beautiful and mysterious in all its phases – be it the Full Moon, Crescent Moon, isn’t it? Well, if you’re a night owl – you’ll love photographing the moon.

How to photograph the moon? (Pro tips for Moon Photography)

  • Use your longest lens 300mm or more (you can also try with 200mm or 250mm) to click the photograph of the moon
  • Depending on your creative vision – how do you want to compose the photograph, what elements of the scene you want in the frame, you can choose to go for Wide-angle lens or Zoom lens
  • If you’re using Manual Mode, you can use the ‘Looney 11 Rule’: Set Aperture to f/11 and Shutter Speed to the reciprocal of the ISO you’ve set.

For instance, set aperture to f/11, if you’re using ISO 400, then set shutter speed to 1/400 secs; if ISO 1600 then shutter speed of 1/1600 sec and so on

  • If you’re using either Aperture Priority mode or Shutter Priority mode, then to avoid the moon in your photograph to look like a white disc (without its craters), dial down Exposure Compensation to -2, -3, -4 or -5 so that the resulting image looks natural and depicts the craters on the moon’s surface (Remember: Exposure Compensation doesn’t work in Manual Mode)

You can experiment with settings like for ISO begin from 400 till 1600 and go for mid-range aperture: f/8 – f/11

  • If the exposure you’ve set is low, then adjust the camera settings

For instance, your settings are aperture: f/11, ISO 800, Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec, then try a different setting by increasing the exposure, maybe you can use f/11, ISO 1600, Shutter Speed: 1/1600 sec or less

  • Tripod is highly recommended to avoid a blur photograph and give you a sharp image of the moon
  • If you don’t have a tripod, you can increase the ISO but remember a higher ISO will produce a more grainy image; so set your ISO accordingly
  • Use Self-timer mode to eliminate the possibility of camera shake when you release the shutter button to take the shot
  • Set the focus to infinity (you will find the infinity symbol ∞ on your camera lens)

Try both the possibilities to shoot the moon – Live View mode and through the Viewfinder to check what works best for you in the given lighting conditions

How to focus to infinity without indicator

If you don’t have the infinity symbol ∞ on your camera, then you can find the infinity focus and mark it on your camera. Here’s how:

  • Turn your AF (Autofocus) mode on
  • Go for Single Focus Point and select center focus point
  • During daytime, point your camera (preferably mounted on a tripod) with the Single Focus Point on the top of a pillar, lighthouse, tree, mountain or a tower that is set against the skyline (Keep the top of the pillar in the center of the frame)
  • The AF mode will try to find focus on the top of the pillar
  • Through the viewfinder/Live View Shoot Mode, when you see your subject/pillar appearing sharp, halfway press the shutter button to lock the focus (the focus has been set to infinity)
  • Now, quickly mark that point on the focus ring with a marker or a tape (you’ve marked your infinity focus)
  • Turn AF (Autofocus) mode to MF (Manual Focus) mode
  • When doing moon photography, use MF (Manual Focus) mode, move your focus ring manually and stop at the marked infinity focus to capture a sharp image
How to focus to infinity without indicator
How to focus to infinity without indicator

Note: After I marked the infinity focus on my focus ring (Canon 1500D) – I found out that when I move my focus ring to the extreme left (hard stop of the camera’s focus ring which is the place at which the focus ring will turn no further) and then move it back by a centimeter to the right, there lies my infinity focus.

(Always try to get sharp images coz if your images aren’t sharp, even post-processing in Lightroom won’t help to correct/enhance your image)

Take a look at the below pictures and Camera Settings that were used to photograph the moon:

Phase of the Moon: First Quarter

(It is a primary Moon phase when we can see exactly half of the Moon’s visible surface illuminated)

How to photograph the moon

Camera Settings – Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/1600 sec, ISO: 1600, Focal length: 250mm, Exposure Compensation: -5, Focus was set to infinity

Phase of the Moon: First Quarter (with a different setting)

Moon Photo

Camera Settings – Aperture: f/5.6, Shutter Speed: 1/60 sec, ISO: 1600, Focal length: 250mm, Exposure Compensation: -5, Focus was set to infinity

Phase of the Moon: Waxing Gibbous

(It is the intermediate phase, Waxing means moon is getting bigger; Gibbous refers to the shape, which is less than the full circle of a Full Moon, but larger than the semicircle shape of the Moon at the Third Quarter)

Phases of the Moon Photograph

Camera Settings – (Looney 11 Rule was used) Aperture: f/11, Shutter Speed: 1/1600 sec, ISO: 1600, Focal length: 250mm, Focus was set to infinity

Photograph of the White Desert of Kutch (India) using Wide-angle lens

Moon photography using wide angle lens

Camera Settings – Aperture: f/5, Shutter Speed: 1/200 sec, ISO: 100, Focal length: 46mm

We bring you ‘Jo & His Camera’ Comic Strips wherein a Magical Camera gives DSLR photography tutorials to Jo.

Click on the below Image to see the Comic wherein the Camera explains Jo, the concept  of Moon Photography with the help of practical examples.

Camera Settings to photograph the moon

When you do photography: Remember the 5E’s – Explore, Experiment, Experience, Enjoy & Express to develop your own style as a photographer.  

Do Share The Learning – Like It, Post It, Pin It, Tweet It!

So, have you photographed the moon yet? If yes – do share your moon photographs and the settings you used to photograph it, in the comment box below.

Did this blog help you with some ideas to improve your photography skills? For more useful photography tips, examples, ideas & inspiration, please subscribe below to receive notifications of new blog posts by email. Thank you!