how to photograph the moon

Have you ever wished you knew how to photograph the moon and have it come out spectacular? This article gives you the simple 5-steps to magnificent moon photos. You'll also learn the moon photography tips that will help you avoid the common mistakes that photographers make when shooting the moon.

Look at this lunar photo below. It was taken one day before a "Super Moon." That's a combination of a full moon taken at the time of year when the moon is at its closest distance to the earth.


I confess, I am reluctant to admit it. You may not want to either, but, my first photos of the moon were pretty bad.  They were taken before the age of digital photography and long before I had a clue on what to do when photographing the moon.

How Not To Photograph The Moon


Has photographing the moon for you resulted more in a photo like this one? This 5-step moon method works every time.

One of the most common photo mistakes is that which occurs with exposure.

Many people use auto-exposure or a Night Scene mode on their digital camera.


Most of the time this results in an over-exposed photo of the moon. The camera's meter will see the darkness of the scene and give the image more exposure.

Since the moon is so much brighter than the dark sky, it gets over-exposed.  Try using manual exposure.  Look at your results and adjust.

Usually the second challenge with moon photography is getting a blurry image. If the shutter speed isn't fast enough, the blurriness may be caused by camera movement or movement of the moon itself.


How To Photograph the Moon - Use the Ocean to Reflect

A tripod is a must to get a super sharp, detailed photo like the one at the top of the page.

Remember that because of the earth's rotation, all of those celestial objects in the sky move.

A powerful zoom lens is required if you want the moon to be larger than just a very small element in your photograph.

One good techniques to use is to do your photography just after moonrise or just before moonset when the moon is close to the horizon.   Look for a pleasing composition that includes something else of interest.

You can get great shots by looking for bodies of water or other smooth reflective surfaces to capture reflections of the light from your subject.


In this picture, labeled "Ocean Reflection," even though the moon itself is overexposed, the sparkling reflections in the water and on the sand make it an interesting photo.

the 5 steps on how to photograph the moon

  1. Use manual exposure.  Camera's automatic settings usually get fooled and overexpose it. Adjust Your exposure manually to get the moon bright, but not white.  Learn how to understand  your camera's histogram.
  2. Use manual focus.  Many digital cameras struggle to focus in dim lighting situations. Don't just set your focus at infinity; you may not get the focus spot on.
  3. Use the longest lens or most powerful zoom setting you have.  Even when the moon looks big and bright to the naked eye, it's really a small and distant object.
  4. Use a steady tripod.  Even the slightest movement will kill your sharpness and sharpness is critical to see all of those amazing lunar details.
  5. Use a cable release or the camera's self-timer to eliminate ALL camera shake.  Did I mention sharpness is critical?


addition thoughts on photographing the moon

How To Photograph the Moon - Use the Clouds to Add Interest

Try starting with camera settings like this:  ISO=100   1/125 second  at  f/11.  

That will get you started in the right neighborhood.  

For the advanced photographers who desire an accurate color balance and want to adjust color temperature, start with 4000K and adjust to how "golden" you want your moon to appear.


Another tip on how to photograph the moon to watch for interesting cloud conditions. In the "Smokey Clouds" photograph, the rule of thirds in photography was used.

The big advantage of digital photography is that you can see your results, adjust your exposure and composition, to make it a better exposure.

Shooting with your camera set on manual settings gives you complete control of your photograph.

Just like other kinds of nature photography, knowing how to photograph the moon involves understanding your camera settings and using good composition technique. You can't just aim your camera at the moon and press the shutter button.


If you need more photography tips on good composition with your photos of the moon, please feel free to go back and visit: Photographing the Moon.

The newest trend in digital photography is to combine more than one image to get a specific look first imagined in the mind.  This is quite popular and fairly simple to do with pictures of the moon because of it's shape.

It's fairly easy to select or copy just the moon from one photograph and paste it into another.


Leave Moon Photography Tips - Return to Home Page

Information About the Moon From NASA

Back to the How To Photograph........Page


p.s.  It is also somewhat simple to create fake moonlight pictures where a photograph looks like it was taken with moonlight, but was actually taken with daylight.  Moonlit photos appear darker and more bluish in color.

The shadows created by moonlight and sunlight are actually quite similar because both the sun and moon are very distant and small  "point" light sources.


You can purposefully underexpose a sunlight scene and use a camera setting that makes the image appear bluish and you've got a moonlight scene instead.. 

Learning how to photograph the moon starts with a clear understanding of what equipment is needed for the desired type of moon photography.  Moon close-ups, photographs with the moon as a small element in the photo and moonlit photos are all unique situations.


Happy Moon Shooting!

Bruce


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