We have a beautiful moon.
She likes to show off and catwalk across the sky and doesn’t mind being photographed, especially on those rare hyped days the media gets all excited about (SuperMoon, Rare Blue Moon, Blood Moon, Money Moon, UltraMoon…).
But too often, we see some of our acquaintances take photos of the moon and post them on Facebook. They mostly look like white sad blobs. And since you don’t want to be that person, here are a few tips to help you get a great shot of the moon easily.
1- The gear:
– A Camera (says Captain Obvious). Preferably a DSLR or Mirrorless. You need to have manual control over your settings.
– A sturdy tripod. Not that flimsy cheap tripod the vendor was trying to sell you at Walmart. A ballhead is preferable since it’s easier and faster to move the camera around.
– A telezoom lens. Not a wide angle, unless you want to have a PixelMoon. You need at least 200mm or longer.
– A Shutter release cable, or a remote. If you don’t have any, that’s fine, you can use the camera’s timer (10s).
2- The Tips:
– Make yourself comfy, bring a torchlight or your smartphone, and wear something warm. You don’t want to freeze at night, it’s not good for photos. Also, important bonus tip: have a visible moon. It really helps to take photos of the moon.
– Try to shoot the moon when it’s low on the horizon, it often appears larger. It’s also easier to shoot than when it’s high up in the sky. You can also try to find an interesting foreground to add as a silhouette. Like a howling wolf or an X-Wing or something.
– Don’t just wait for the full moon. It’s often more interesting when you capture it a few days before or after the full moon, or any other time actually, because you can see more texture around the edges (craters and mountains).
– Shoot in RAW. you will retain more data to work on your photo later. Actually, ALWAYS shoot in RAW.
– Set your tripod, make sure it’s steady, use mirror lockup on your camera to avoid vibrations (if you’re shooting with a DSLR) and use a remote. If you don’t have one, set the timer to 10s. When using a telezoom, the slightest movement is magnified.
– Switch the focus to manual and use the Live View to nail the focus on the moon. You can actually zoom in the photo when using Live View so take advantage of that. Also, if your lens has vibration reduction (or image stabilization), turn that off.
– Shoot in Manual Mode. If you’re using the Live View, it’s actually easy to nail the exposure by playing around with the settings. Start with a low ISO (around 200), set your aperture around f/8 or f/11 and adjust the shutter speed to get a proper exposure.
– Be careful though, try not to shoot at a slow shutter speed. Since you’re zoomed in and due to the rotation of the moon and the earth, your lunar subject will move pretty fast in your viewfinder and that will result in a blurry/soft image. Try 1/200s or faster if you can. Raise the ISO and lower the aperture if needed.
– Once you get the shot, use Lightroom to adjust your image and make it pop. I often crop it tight, darken the shadows a bit, add a tiny bit of clarity and play with the White Balance to obtain the result I want.
– Don’t push the WB to cooler temperatures and then claim that it was a Blue Moon (FYI: A blue moon is not blue, it’s just a second full Moon in the same month, that’s all). Don’t do a Blood Moon either.
– That’s it!
Luckily, if you miss the shot, the moon will always be around, even if it takes a break from time to time (new moon). Go out, have fun and shoot the moon.