Tired of your moon photos looking like a flashlight on a dark night? This tips will help your photos resemble the reality.
You’ve landed on one of 28 posts about photography and how to improve your skills. If you’re a creative, blogger, or photography enthusiast, you’ve landed in the right spot!
Caught Without My Big Lens, Again
“Shall we go for a walk?” Pedro asked after we finished setting up camp at Sand Island Campground in Bluff, Utah.
“Sure, I need to stretch my legs before we head to bed.”
We walked along a road, exploring the small, quiet campground, chatting about our lucky find. If we had kept going, we wouldn’t have reached true destination, Canyonlands National Park, until well after dark. With no reservations, we didn’t want to get stuck with nowhere to set up for the night.
“Look at the moon!” Pedro said.
A gorgeous, full moon rose over the bluffs. “I don’t have my camera with me,” I moaned. The moon wouldn’t stay large-looking for long, so I took off running to get closer to the bluffs.
Pulling out my iPhone, I snapped a photo, but couldn’t believe how the result didn’t resemble what I saw in real life at all. Instead of a golden yellow, the moon looked like a white blob. I sprinted even closer, and this time I used my finger to meter the photo from the moon, not the surrounding area. My second shot, while still failing to resemble the actual beauty of the moment, came a lot closer.
Why Your Photos Never Resemble What You See When You Shoot the Moon
First of all, think of the moon as a giant flashlight. Your camera’s automatic light sensor mechanism will react accordingly if you have your camera on [auto]. You’ve learned a little about aperture value [Av] and shutter value [Tv] or [S]. Now I’ll share what I know about the [Manual] mode.
When you set your camera to the [Manual] mode, you, the photographer control both the aperture and shutter speed. Remember, when using the [Av] mode, you control the aperture, and the camera controls the shutter speed. When using the [Tv] or [S] mode, you control the shutter speed, and the camera controls the aperture.
Try These Tips for Shooting the Moon
Tips for Shooting the Moon with the Moon as the Main Subject with a DSLR
1. Set your camera on manual mode.
In order to shoot the moon, you’ll want a small aperture (a large f-stop) and a quick shutter speed. Experiment with f-11 and a shutter speed of 1/250.
The shutter speed was set at 1/50th of a second for this shot. I set it at 1/320th of a second for this shot and it came out nicer.
2. Set your ISO to 100.
You don’t need a higher ISO to make your photo brighter. The moon does a great job of lighting itself. If you make the mistake of using an extreme ISO, your photo will look grainy.
ISO set at 100. ISO set at 200
3. Use a tripod.
A tripod or some object to keep your camera steady will improve your photos considerably. The moon moves fast, and if you have a telephoto lens, you’ll have a difficult time holding it steady. I’ve used a pillow balanced on the back porch railing.
4. Lock the mirror up if you have a DSLR.
Check your manual for how to do this. When you lock the mirror up, you’ll eliminate camera shake when you take the photo.
5. Use a timer or wireless release to snap the photo.
Using a timer or wireless release will aid in keeping the camera steady. Your manual will explain how to do it for your camera.
6. Focus using the camera’s live-view mode.
If you’ve never used it before, check your manual and practice a few times. Using the live-view mode allows you to see what the camera focuses on and compose your shot without causing extra movement and vibration.
7. Meter the light on the moon.
Use spot-metering (where you tell your camera to only meter in one spot) for best results. Otherwise, your camera will make your moon washed out and overly bright.
8. Above all, plan ahead!
The moon doesn’t joke around. Once it starts rising or setting, things happen fast. Use weather apps to discover what stage the moon will be in before your plan your trip.
Tips for Shooting the Moon with a Point and Shoot Camera
You have fewer options here, and it’s unlikely you’ll be able to take a moon portrait where the moon resembles a giant orange.
But you can still shoot fine photos with the moon as part of your scene. Set your camera on sunrise/sunset mode to accommodate for the brightness of the moon. Experiment with shooting from different angles and with the moon at different heights in the sky. Don’t forget morning moonlight, either!
iPhone Moon Photography
To improve your moon photography with your camera, meter light off the moon. Position your camera to take your shot, and then touch the screen where the moon appears. This will signal to your camera to use the moon as the brightest object and set the light meter for that area.
You can use telephoto, but don’t overdo it, or your photo will look pixilated. If you have an iPhone tripod, use it.
The next full moon happens this weekend, so start getting your gear in place. If you have a DSLR, practice locking your mirror up, using a timer or a remote release, and focusing using your camera’s live-mode view. Get comfortable with using [manual] mode, too.
If you have a point-and-shoot or an iPhone, find an inexpensive tripod and learn how to attach your camera and practice shooting with the camera’s built-in timer.
Make sure you know when the full moon rises and sets (sometimes you can snag photos of it rising at night and setting the following morning.
The next supermoon will take place on April 26, 2021. Hopefully, you’ll feel confident in taking a great moon portrait by then!
Come Back Tomorrow
In tomorrow’s installment of 28 Days Behind the Lens I’ll talk about perception and backgrounds.