Ten Tips to Help You Make Better Moon Photos
With the first of two nights behind with a super moon in the sky I thought that would do another Ten Tips post. This summer there will be plenty of opportunities to make some nice moon photos as there will be three super moons this summer. The moon will be closest to us next month on August 10th. Tonight and on September 9th will also be super moons, although the moon will not be as close as in August. This is a list of tips that I have come up with after trying and failing to photograph the moon. It is not a final catch all list, but it is a good start to help you make the best picture that you can of the moon. With that in mind here are ten tips for photographing the moon.
- Use a Tripod – Do you have the feeling that all of my tips will start with this? Using a tripod helps take camera shake out of the equation. With a high enough shutter speed you can certainly shoot the moon handheld. A tripod though will help you reduce another element that can interfere with a crisp photo.
- Use a Cable Release – With your camera on a tripod a cable release takes out that much more shake from the equation. The self timer on the camera is also a good option if you do not have a cable release.
- Focus on the Moon – That may sound funny, but at night I always hear photographers say that they cannot find focus. With the moon you have a large bright object in the sky that will easily be picked up by your camera. On the same subject you can use a shallow depth of field here as the moon is far enough away that you don’t have to worry about your plane of focus.
- Don’t Trust Your Camera or Your Histogram – The moon is a bright object in a dark sky. If you are in matrix metering your camera will try and solve for both the dark sky as well as the moon, and your photo will have a blown out moon. In this situation you can go into spot metering to get you close, but in the end you have to solve the exposure yourself.
- Get Out Your Telephoto Lens – The moon is around 240,000 miles away. Your nifty fifty will not be enough to reach out to the moon. Grab your largest telephoto and start shooting. I would shy away from using your teleconverter though as it may add some blur to the photo. When I was photographing the super moon for the above shot I initially had my 300mm lens with the 2x tele on it. Something just did not look right to me. I ended up taking off the teleconverter and cropping in closer in Lightroom.
- Don’t Always Shoot Just the Moon – A shot like the one above can be great, but objects in the foreground can help add scale to the moon. As you know the moon does not get smaller as it moves up into the sky, but rather the optical illusion goes away. Putting an object in the foreground can create the illusion of a super large moon. This is a moment when you can sometimes skip step #4 and use a different lens.
- Shoot in RAW – This is something that I always do no matter what I am shooting. Shooting in RAW helps you recover any details later in post. You can adjust the white balance which can drastically alter the look of the image. If you are shooting a scene with the moon in it you can also adjust for the wide range of light in the photo.
- Photograph the Moon at Moonrise or Moonset – This kind of goes with tip #5. Shooting the moon just as it comes up or as it is going down helps you give it scale. It also gives you the chance to play with the composition to create some unique effects.
- Shoot Different Phases of the Moon – The full moon is the most appealing to photographers, but the moon then has the full impact of the sun on it. I think that a partial moon can be even more appealing though as you have more shadows to catch all of the craters.
- Know Your Moon – This will help with #9 a bit. I use a program called Moon for my iPhone to get some moon data, and the StarWalk program to locate the moon. Both of these can help you make sure that you are in the right place to make the picture of the moon at the right moment. You can also use Google Earth to show you exactly where the moon will rise from any location so that you can be in the right spot to make something extraordinary.