Most everybody has tried to take a picture of the moon, and most of the time it never works. The picture is too dark, the moon the is too far away, or the moon is even red or organge looking, basically not the way you want it to look. Here are some tips on how to get great looking pictures of the moon:
Tripod. A secure base and workstation for your camera is essential to capturing the moon and avoiding camera shake. While you may be able to get away with hand holding your camera, your best results will without a doubt come from mounting your camera upon a tripod.
Long zoom lens. In order to help fill the frame and properly show off the moon, the longer your zoom lens the better. You don’t necessarily need the fastest lens, because you’ll be on a tripod, but it’s best to use anything 300mm or longer.
A wireless remote. If it’s an option for your camera model. This is not an essential piece, but it’s nice to have and helps avoid camera shake. If you don’t have one you can cheat and use the self timer function on your camera.
Camera. While almost any camera will work, point and shoots rarely produce decent photos, mostly due to the small size of the sensor and it over-heating during longer exposures resulting in digital noise. A DSLR is preferred here, or film SLR, again with a long lens on it.
No preset or auto function of your camera will be able to properly meter the moon, so you are best off shooting in full manual mode. Also, your geographical location and current phase of the moon will have an effect on what your settings will be and you will need to adjust for the season of year and clarity of the sky.
ISO. Digital cameras should be set to 100 or lower, film shooters should shoot film of 100 ISO or slower to eliminate noise and grain.
Aperture. Because you’re after crisp, clean shots shooting at f/11 to f/16, depending on your lens, will be the best place to start.
Shutter speed. This will be the point at which you will need to adjust on a number of shots. The variables are many and include those mentioned earlier, such as the phase the moon is in, geographical location and desired shot, but on a clear night starting at about 1/60th should be a great middle ground.
A word about where you choose to shoot. Picking a spot to shoot the moon is one of the most important factors in achieving a quality shot. Ideally, if you want to showcase the moon itself you want to avoid any other ambient light, including street lights and traffic. This may require you to go off on a remote road or into a public park after hours – your backyard may not be the best location for these types of shots. On the contrary, if you are trying to include a city skyline under your moon shot, you’ll need to find a lookout that allows for the twinkling lights below and do further test shots to nail the exposure properly.
Post processing your photos is really straight forward and in most cases an auto white balance will do you just fine, however photographs of the moon also make stunning black and white images.
– S. Selby