10 Dos and Don’ts for Shooting the Moon
If you’ve ever tried shooting the moon, you’ve probably discovered that it’s actually a pretty tricky subject!
But don’t worry; there are some tips and techniques you can use to quickly improve your moon photography.
In this article, let’s look at some dos and don’ts to take your moon images from snapshots to stunning art.
1. Do use a tripod
One of the most important pieces of equipment for shooting the moon is a good tripod.
Since the moon is so small, it is very important to have a sturdy foundation, because even the most minute movement of the camera will cause your image to blur.
You might think that, if you use a fast-enough shutter speed, you can handhold the camera. But since your subject is so small in the frame, even small movements will be exaggerated.
2. Don’t use a slow shutter speed
While it’s a good idea to use a tripod, you must avoid using a slow shutter speed.
Because the moon is actually moving very quickly around the earth. The moon is so distant, it doesn’t appear to be traveling very fast. But if you let your shutter speed relax too much, you’ll end up with all sorts of unwanted motion blur.
A good rule of thumb for tack-sharp moon photography is to shoot at 1/125s or faster.
3. Do use a telephoto lens
To successfully capture any kind of detail on the moon, you need at least a 300mm telephoto lens.
If you want the moon to take up the entire frame, you will need around an 800mm lens.
4. Don’t use any filters on your lens
To prevent any chance of a blurry image, don’t use any filters.
Yes, even remove the UV filter. This may sound scary if you never remove the UV filter from your lens, but in this case, it’s best to set it aside.
Some may suggest using a neutral density (ND) filter for moon photography to cut back on the bright light of the moon. But all this will do is require a slower shutter speed, and you want to use the fastest shutter speed possible to get that crisp, tack-sharp image.
5. Do try the Looney 11 Rule
The Looney 11 Rule is similar to the Sunny 16 Rule. It’s designed to help you exposure properly when shooting the moon, while also ensuring you get a fast-enough shutter speed for sharp shots.
Here’s how it works:
Set your f-stop to f/11.
Then match the shutter speed to your ISO.
For example, if your ISO is set at 200, set your shutter speed to 1/200s.
6. Don’t use the shutter button to start your exposure
Do not manually press the shutter button or even touch your tripod when initiating your moon shot.
Remember that even the slightest touch could add enough vibration to blur the image.
Instead, use a cable release or remote trigger to start your exposure. If you don’t have either of these gadgets, use the self-timer feature on your camera.
7. Do use mirror lock-up
If you’re working with a DSLR and it has the option, lock up your mirror. This can greatly increase your chances of getting a tack-sharp moon image.
You see, even the slightest shake of your camera’s mirror can be enough to blur the shot. So if your camera has this option, use it!
Lock the mirror up and wait a few seconds to allow any vibrations to settle before beginning your exposure.
8. Don’t use image stabilization
Your lens’s (and camera’s) image stabilization technology must be turned off as soon as you put your camera on a tripod.
Turning on an image stabilization feature with your camera mounted on a tripod will actually create blur in your image!
9. Do know the cycles of the moon
There are 29.5 days between full moons.
And by learning when the full moon will come, you can ensure you get the best-looking moon in your shots!
There are many online and smartphone applications that can help you track the phases of the moon. One must-have app is The Photographer’s Ephemeris, which will give you the phases of the moon, and also show you when and where the moon will appear in the sky.
This is especially useful when planning your moon shoots. The full moon is very popular and photogenic, but it’s also the brightest and the most difficult to expose correctly.
The side lighting of a gibbous moon produces some interesting shadows which may allow you to capture craters and mountains. The crescent moon is, of course, the darkest stage, but one that may offer some interesting effects when added to a nighttime landscape.
10. Don’t always place the moon in the center of the frame
Putting the moon in the center of the frame – especially if there’s nothing else in the shot – is boring.
It’s been done a million times before. So try to put the moon off-center.
Oh, and make sure to include other interesting objects in the frame!
That’s how you’ll end up with a truly impressive moon photo.