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
  • You can either use single focus point in autofocus mode or infinity focus in manual mode (you will find the infinity symbol ∞ on your camera lens). See which option gives you a better picture – use that one

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

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

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

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.

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