Full moon, half moon, quarter moon – Any moon. They are all fun to photograph. I recommend to photograph the moon at different moon phases, as down the track you may wish to use them in composite images.
Gear recommendations to Photograph the Moon
Lens Recommendation: Telephoto Lens – 400mm or greater.
Lens Extender: 1.4x or 2x (optional)
Shutter Release Cable
Top tips to Photograph the Moon
Use a Tripod
As always, anything at night, I believe requires a tripod, as you are usually shooting with a longer shutter speed. You want the moon as sharp as possible. If you are using a big, heavy telephoto lens, make sure you have a tripod that can support the weight of your camera and lens. I recommend mounting the lens to the tripod, if your lens has a ring mount. This will also help alleviate movement.
** No tripod? Try these settings ISO 400, Shutter speed 1/500, Aperture, f/8. <— I still believe you need a tripod for a super clear shot tho!
Use a Shutter Release Cable or Timer
Because you are using a telephoto lens, any camera movement, while pushing the shutter will create movement.If you don’t have a shutter release you should use the camera’s built in timer.
Plug your shutter release cable in or set camera up to use the timer.
My goto settings to photograph the moon are below:
** Please note that I usually photograph the moon when its higher in the sky. If you are wanting to photograph the moon when its rising and closer to the earth – the moon will not be as bright and you will need a higher ISO and a larger aperture (smaller number)
ISO – 100 – 200 ( I like to keep ISO as low as possible for reduced noise)
Aperture – f/14 (I like the whole moon to be in focus)
Shutter Speed – 1/60 (Don’t have the shutter speed set for too long – the moon moves while the shutter is open and will cause a blurry image)
White Balance – AWB or Auto White Balance (I shoot in raw and can adjust the white balance later if required)
Tip: Make sure you always expose for the moon and not the sky, or you will end up with an over exposed bright ball in the sky.
Focus on the Moon
Once your camera is set up on the tripod, turn off Image Stability, if your lens has it. Switch your lens to manual focus. Using the live view screen on the back of your camera, zoom in 5x and focus on the moon. You then zoom in 10x and tweak your focus until you can see the craters on the moon as sharp as possible.
Take a test shot
Take a test shot and assess how your image has come out. If it’s too bright – Adjust the shutter speed to a faster shutter speed. If its not bright enough – Increase the ISO ever so slightly.
Zoom right in on the image you have photographed to make sure it is sharp. If not, re-focus and try again.
Because the moon is always moving, you will be having to chase it on the tripod. Remember to adjust the tripod as required.
Below are some examples of what you don’t want and what you are looking for with your moon shots!
This image is completely over exposed. Settings: ISO 400, f/5.6, 1/5 second. @ 400mm
This image is too bright and has lost the detail of the moon. Settings: ISO 50, f/14, 0.4 second. @ 400mm
This image has too much noise, again reducing the detail. Settings ISO 1000, f/8, 1/320 second. @ 560mm
This image is just what you are looking for – Sharp + Clear. Settings: ISO 100, f/14, 1/60 second. @ 560mm
Go out and have some fun – remember you don’t just have to shoot the moon when it’s full!
** Pin this image for later.