How To Take Sharp, Clear Photos Of The Moon With Your SLR

Photo by Amy Renfrey

Canon 5D mk II, 30 seconds, F20, ISO 800.

Do not rip this photo off my website for any reason. If you want to use it, you must ask for written permission and authorisation first. If I find out you’ve used it without permission, you’re in trouble.

By Amy Renfrey

How To Do Photography

I wrote about this a couple of years again and it’s now time to do it again. I thought I would write about the specifics of getting the sharp craters in your photography, and also creating arty shots of moon scenes as well. I took this photo above using F20 and 30 seconds. I would usually use a shorter shutter speed, but as you will find out soon, I wanted a whole scene, rather than a close up of the moon itself. it’s a little grainy, but I don’t care because I like it this way. I encourage you to think artistically about your photography, and photographing our moon is no exception. I’ll mainly focus on clear moon shots with craters in this article.

So lets get started.  For a big moon with craters, first, you need a cloudless sky. A lovely, cloudless evening has the idyllic conditions to take moon photography. On the other hand you can look for a soft cloud streaking in front of} the surface of the moon. This also makes for magnificent photography. So let’s look closer at exactly what you will need.

Your focal length. If you want to photograph the moon as close as you can, then you need a very long lens. The best way to get close is by shooting with  a telescope. You can slot your camera on a mount and then the telescope successfully becomes your lens. It replaces the lens and you can get closer images pretty simply.

If you don’t own a telescope then you can use a long telephoto. A fast telephoto  lens is a lens that is very long. It is used for animals photography and portrait photography. A good range might be something like 200mm to 400mm. These telephoto lenses are very costly but yield the best photos. A fast telephoto lens is a lens that has F2.8 or F1.4 as it’s maximum aperture. It means you can get more light and have a faster shutter. You won;t have to rely on ISO as much, which is great, especially if your camera gets grainy when you use a high ISO.

The moon is really bright, most of the time. Many people apply night time photography principles over shooting the moon. Does this work? Well, yes and no. I’d opt for no, personally. If you photograph the moon the same way you would using a dark night and very long exposures, you may encounter a great ball of white against a black night sky. Just as my photo is above. But I meant to do this, it was my aim to get the moon as a white ball.  If you like to shoot the craters,you have to apply some really different things.

The moon is very dazzling, in particular when it’s full. And you don’t want to miss a full moon. When I take pictures of the moon I position my settings at anything from 180th of a second to 30 seconds.  For detailed shots where you want to craters are shown, then you need to zoom in, shoot with a small aperture, a faster, daylight shutter speed and a medium to low ISO. If you are not sure which shutter speed is the best then attempt three or four photos on a selection of shutter speeds to get the best one.

Setting up. You will need a support when you take pictures of the moon. This is since the moon is so distant, any knock or bump of the digital camera and you may find you risk missing the superb craters. Position your camera on a tripod, and if you have one, use a shutter cable to be in command of the shutter speed. We use these shooting modes since we do not want to accidentally move the camera by pressing the shutter button down. And that’s right, even movement as light as a finger can put your entire photo out of focus.

It’s imperative to keep the camera still so you get everything in focus. I use manual focus so I can capture the craters as razor-sharp as I can. I occasionally find that auto focus can either have challenges getting the precise focus or sometimes can’t focus whatsoever. Try adjusting the focus ring until you come across a position whereby the moons craters look razor-sharp.

Lighting sensitivity. ISO is a characteristic of your camera that controls how responsive the camera is to light. If you are photographing the moon as the key subject matter against a black night sky, then you will not want a very high ISO. If you are photographing the moon as an addition to your shot, then this becomes a different matter altogether.The closer you get to the moon, the less ISO you need.

What about the cameras aperture? Since the moon is in the far distance I suggest making use of a little fstop. In other words employ a big f-stop number. I usually choose F22 for the sharpest I shots I can get. It’s better to get as much sharpness into the depth of your scene as you possibly can.

Shoot at the very highest quality you can. I always pick RAW for all my photos and shooting the moon is no exclusion. If you want high quality images then opt for the highest quality setting you can go. Even if you can’t photograph in RAW, select the largest Jpeg possible.

Once you have taken your moon photograph, you may have to sharpen it a little. Not because your image will come out fuzzy, but remember, it is over three hundred thousand kilometres away. A little increase in the sharpening will help enhance some of detail in the craters. Try improving the contrast a little too. That always helps to give the surface more depth and detail, instead than having a big flat white surface.

Photograph the moon well by making use of these simple guidelines to help. In the mean time don’t stop gazing at the beautiful night sky. You may be astounded at what you see; falling stars, a shift in position of the moon and constellations and even a satellite or two. They make sharp time lapse images. Never forget the total beauty and brilliance of the night sky. It gives us a chance, as photographers to take pictures of the distant past and be amazed at the place we reside in.

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3 comments on “How To Take Sharp, Clear Photos Of The Moon With Your SLR

  1. Pingback: How To Take Sharp, Clear Photos Of The Moon With Your SLR … | Taking The Picture

  2. Thanks for this article, Amy. I like to shoot night sky though my camera is not very good at it since I only am using a pocket camera at the moment. Even so it doesn’t stop me to shoot it anyway. 🙂

  3. Thank you for the tips. I’m a novice trying to get more out of my DSLR. Tonight is the bloodmoon and I want to get something worth looking at.

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