The moon has been the subject of art and poetry for centuries, but it's certainly a challenge to photograph. The best images feature its craters in stunning detail, capture the glow it radiates, and make for hauntingly beautiful works of art.
Getting the most impressive photos of the moon takes the right combination of skill and equipment. Continue reading for some tips.
Choosing the Right Night
No matter what phase the moon is in, if you want to get the clearest shot, you should aim to photograph it on a cloudless night and in a location where there's little air pollution and minimal light pollution. This may require that you leave the big city. Heading to higher elevations will also make the task easier since you'll be reducing the amount of space between yourself and the moon.
Gathering Up the Right Equipment
In addition to a DSLR camera, you'll need a telephoto lens of at least 200mm, though some photographers go even bigger and purchase or rent 400mm or 500mm lenses to get even closer shots of the magnificent moon. And still others opt for a whopping 800mm.
What's the difference between these lenses in terms of how big the moon will be? Well, with a 200mm lens, the moon will still be pretty small, so you can get creative and incorporate some nice framing elements in the form of buildings or treetops. Once you start using 400mm or 500mm lenses, the moon will be even bigger, to the point that it becomes the focal point of your image. And an 800mm lens will cause the moon to completely fill the frame. To keep things affordable and easy, you can always use a 400mm or 500mm lens and simply crop in during editing.
Of course, you also need a tripod in order to hold the camera as steady as possible when you zoom in this far. And it's also advised that you use a timer or remote trigger to take the shot.
Get the Right Exposure
Spot metering is a great way to get the camera to capture all of the details of the moon by choosing the right exposure even though you're framing a bright white moon against a black sky.
Another method for achieving optimal exposure is the bracketing method. Just remember that you're better off underexposing a bit and then fixing it during editing, rather than getting an overexposed shot and being unable to get back lost details.
Use Manual Mode
Setting your camera to manual mode and turning off autofocus is highly recommended to get the best photos of the moon.
A good place to start would be to set the manual focus to infinity. Then set the aperture at f/11, and put your ISO at 200 if you're shooting with a Nikon or 100 if you prefer Canon. In terms of shutter speed, start off with 1/250 if you're using ISO 200. Go to 1/125 if you're shooting with ISO 100.
Test this setup and see if it works. Trial and error by altering the shutter speed will allow you to choose the best exposure setting.
Have Fun with Composition, Experiment, and Learn
When it comes to composing a shot with the moon in it, have fun and feel free to experiment. While you can certainly take a close-up of the moon as the focal point, if you're photographing it as it's rising over the horizon, you have more of an opportunity to incorporate other features like mountains, trees, and even landscapes.
If you want to learn more about taking photos of nature, landscapes, people, etc., join the PT community. You'll connect with fellow photographers, share your photos, enter contests, and win valuable prizes, all while having access to education and training to become a better photographer.