Moon Photos

Most people around the world enjoy looking at the moon during its different phases and a large number try and take photos of it – often without any great success! So here are some useful tips:

  • When photographing the moon at night there will be little available light to see both your camera and your immediate surroundings, so I suggest you have a small torch to assist
  • When photographing the moon at night the sky is naturally dark, black even, as a result the metering systems within cameras simply see a large amount of dark area within the scene and try to assist with your capturing the scene by ‘lighting’ up the scene – usually resulting in a bright white ball where the moon is!
  • If you’ve also experienced this, you are not alone! But this can be fixed in most cameras, and not just DSLR’s.
  • If available, select the ‘mode’ dial for exposure on to Manual. This means YOU are in control of the exposure settings and not the camera. If there is no Manual setting check the ‘scene’ mode for night-time photos as this may suffice
  • Securely place the camera (ideally) on to a tripod and select a low ISO (100-200). Do NOT select ‘auto ISO’ as this will again interfere with you being in control of the exposure!
  • Adjust the aperture to an ‘f’ setting of around f8 – f11 and compose your scene – carefully consider the best location for the moon
  • After lightly touching the shutter release button you will activate the metering and the cameras metering system will display a movable marker and this will help guide you to what amount of adjustment is required to the shutter speed to obtain the correct exposure
  • This is usually displayed on a row of lines, with bigger lines every 3 spaces. Each of the lines represent a third of one stop of exposure and the bigger lines therefore equate to one stop. The display is shown either horizontally or vertically within the viewfinder on most DSLR, Bridge and CSC cameras. It can also be displayed on the rear screen as with most Compact cameras
  • By noting the start point of the marker you should adjust the shutter speed to obtain either a faster or slower speed, depending on the start point, in order to secure the setting directly in the middle (its usually marked with a small fixed arrow) this represents the ‘correct’ exposure according to the cameras metering
  • However, we already know this will provide you with a bright white ball as the moon so, and depending on how bright the moon is and how large it is within your scene (especially if you have a powerful zoom or telephoto lens attached) you will need to set a shutter speed which provides an exposure some 5 or 6 stops darker (moving the reading to the minus side) this means a manual adjustment of some 15 to 18 ‘clicks’, remembering that each line/click represents a third of a stop
  • If you are utilising ‘live view’ you will note the moon’s brightness will reduce gradually as you make this adjustment and eventually you will be able to see the details. This will also enable you to carefully adjust the focussing to ensure the image of the Moon is sharp
  • Finally, as the Earth and the moon are both moving across the sky its likely that by the time you’ve completed your first correct composition and settings adjustment the moon will have changed position so recompose your photo and now, subject to minor exposure adjustments, you will be able to enjoy capturing some amazing photos. Good luck.

I do offer feedback on photos so please try the ‘Photo Evaluation’ section to have your image(s) judged and receive constructive feedback 🙂