Discover How To Photograph The Moon And Capture All It’s Craters And Detail

It’s easy to learn how to photograph the moon. In fact once you understand why you need to apply the principles I am about to tell you, moon photography will be a piece of cake.

The first thing to aim for, naturally, is good weather. A lovely clear night is the ideal conditions to take moon photography. Alternatively you can look for a gentle cloud streaking across the surface of the moon. This also makes for wonderful photography. So let’s have a look at exactly what you will need:

Your focal length. If you want to shoot the moon close up, or as close as you can, then you need a very long lens. The best way to get close is by using a telescope. You can place your camera on a mount and then the telescope effectively becomes your lens. It replaces the lens and you can get very close shots pretty easily.

If you do not have a telescope then you can use a telephoto lens. A telephoto lens is a lens that is very long. It is used for wildlife photography and portrait photography. A good range might be something like 200mm to 400mm. These lenses are very expensive but yield the loveliest results.

What about the brightness of the moon? Many people shoot the moon the same way as they would a night time scene. If you do this too, you may experience a large ball of white against a black sky. That might be ok over water for example, but if you want to capture the craters, then this is simply not the way to photograph.

The moon is very bright, especially when it’s full. I recommend choosing settings that mimic brighter, daylight conditions. When I photograph the moon I set my settings at anything from 125th of a second to 60th of a second. If you are not sure which shutter speed is best then try a few shots on a variety of shutter speeds to find the best one.

Setting up. You will need a tripod when you shoot the moon. This is because the moon is so far away, any movement of the camera and you may find you risk missing the beautiful craters. Keep your camera on a tripod, and if you have one, use a shutter cable to control the shutter speed. We use these because we do not want to bump the camera by pressing the shutter button down. And yes, even something as light as finger movement can blur your image.

It’s important to keep the camera still so you get everything in focus. I use manual focus so I can get the craters as sharp as I can. I sometimes find that auto focus can either have problems getting the right focus or sometimes can’t focus at all. Try moving the focus ring until you find a position whereby the moons craters look sharp.

Light sensitivity. ISO is a feature of your camera that controls how sensitive the camera is to lighting. If you are shooting the moon as the main subject against a black sky, then you will not need a very high ISO. If you are shooting the moon as an addition to your scene, then this becomes a different matter altogether.

What about aperture? Since the moon is in the far distance I suggest using a small aperture. In other words use a large f-stop number. I usually prefer F22 for the sharpest I images 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 chose RAW for all my photography and photographing the moon is no exception. If you want high quality images then opt for the highest quality setting you can go. Even if you can’t shoot in RAW, select the largest Jpeg size you can.

Once you have taken your moon photograph, you may have to sharpen it a little. Not because your photo will come out blurry, but remember, it is hundreds of thousands of kilometers away. A little sharpening will help bring out some of the clarity and sharpness in the craters. Try increasing the contrast a little too. That always helps to give the surface more depth and detail, rather than having a big flat white surface.

Photograph the moon well by using these simple tips to help. In the mean time don’t stop looking at the beautiful night sky. You may be surprised at what you see; falling stars, a shift in position of the moon and constellations and even a satellite of two. They may for excellent time lapse shots. Never underestimate the sheer beauty and brilliance of the night sky. It offers us a chance, as photographers to capture the distant past and marvel at the place we live in.

Discover how to get beautifully sharp photos in all your photography. Discover the ebooks that can change the way you do photography from now on.


About the Author

Amy is an multi-award winning photographer from Australia. She teaches enthusiast photographers how to take beautiful, professional photos in easy, plain English. She has a monthly photography emagazine and ebooks to help you create stunning images every time.

Comments (29)

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  1. Juliette says:

    Lighting is one of the most important factors in taking photographs of natural subjects. Unlike with studio shots where you control the lights and the shadows, taking photos outside is a little bit more complicated. In addition to not being able to control your subject, you also have to take into consideration the elements especially the lighting.

    Of course for the seasoned photographer, natural light is no longer a hindrance. In fact, most photographers use light to create great effects and put color into an otherwise drab picture. Hence there are photos that play up the shadows or those that capture the different colors of the sky. This is especially true with landscape shots or those that capture flowers and other objects in the environment.

    Light can have a lot of sources. In the morning, there is the sunlight while in the evening, there is the moonlight. There is also what photographers call the natural light, which is not as direct as the two previously mentioned. One can use any of these sources of light. The trick is to know how to use it by angling the camera and the subject to achieve the exposure that you want.

    This is often done by studying the effect of the light and its corresponding shadows to your subject. For instance, if you want a more dramatic effect, some photographers will use shadows as their main light instead of the natural light.

    There are four main directions that photographers must learn in order to take advantage of the light outside. Overhead light for instance has high contrast and harsh shadows. This is achieved when the light is directly above the subject like when it is noontime. Using lights at the front will result with a flat shot.

    This is usually seen with shots that use flash in the camera. Often, pictures shot in this direction will lack depth and dimension. Light at the back, on the other hand, may require an additional fill or reflector at the back to bring out the color of the subject. Often, with a light at the back, the shadows may ruin the photo.

    Shooting with the light at the side is perhaps the most recommended when it comes to the direction as this will bring out the texture and the shape of the subject that one is using. For instance, with a light on the side, there will be parts that will be highlighted and parts that are not.

  2. Bob Johnson says:

    A great piece – thank you so much for posting it. I would definitely recommend thet every one else should have a look at it.

  3. Beneficial info and excellent design you got here! I want to thank you for sharing your ideas and putting the time into the stuff you publish! Great work!

  4. This article was extremely interesting, especially since I was searching for thoughts on this subject last Thursday.

  5. refi plus says:

    Hey very nice blog!! Man .. Beautiful .. Amazing .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds also…

  6. At you inquisitive mind :)

  7. film indir says:

    good quality post thanks

  8. Helen says:

    Excellent brief and this article helped me alot. Say thank you I looking for your information….

  9. lawn care says:

    Just discovered this site through Yahoo, what a pleasant shock!

  10. Sarah says:

    Having just made the jump into the world of DSLR photography and becoming more serious about capturing light, your blogs help in so many ways.

  11. Amy I tried photographing them earned several times but my pictures always came out blurry. I was using a telescope and mounted my digital camera to it but the picture is still didn’t look right. Any ideas why this may have been a poor result?

  12. Wei says:

    Digital Photography Secrets is one of the best photographic sites I have seen. I am your loyal reader. Thank you so much for sharing so much information here. I benefit a lot. May your business be the best in the new year.

  13. This was a great post.. You capture the moon in such great light and with very beautiful detail. It’s amazing how we can see something all the time, even in different forms and yet, it’s still so breathtaking when you capture it a certain way. There are many times I look up in the sky at night and I am truly amazed how different each moon is each week. Great pics!

  14. Leslie says:

    Shooting the moon is hard.

  15. Taz Drouin says:

    Good job, as always!

  16. Melanie says:

    I love the Moon and photographing it too.

  17. Susan Hunter says:

    I’ve tried to shoot the moon on many occassions and they’ve just never turned out. Apprecaite your great tips, keep ‘em coming!

  18. Carrie says:

    My partner and I have photographed and played around with this and found it really enjoyable. I do love my photography.

  19. Mandy says:

    Amazing stuff thanks :)

  20. Dwayne says:

    Shooting the moon is not as easy as it seems! I set up a mount on my telescope and it took ages to get it right.

  21. Gerri says:

    I love shooting the moon.

  22. Oliver says:

    Its a wonderful discussion and suggestion. It helps any body even a amateur to do well in digital photography…

  23. Ned says:

    Amy what is your ezine website?

  24. Connie says:

    Only wanna say that this is very helpful, Thanks for taking your time to write this.

  25. Sandi says:

    Amy, when are you bringing out Lightroom tutorials?

  26. Wendy Marshall says:

    Fantastic Stuff Amy!

  27. Tylah says:

    Many thanks Amy, great stuff. Bought you ezine subscription and it’s the best stuff I’ve read so far.

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