How to photograph the moon:
4 simple tips for you to try
The moon is a beautiful and fascinating subject to photograph, but determining the right exposure and the best compositing can be a challenge.
To help you get even better photos, I’ve outlined four simple tips in this blog post. I explain what to consider when it comes to when and where to photograph the moon, what equipment you'll need, how to compose your shots and share some go-to settings to help get your started.
Moon photography tips
1. When & where
The best time to photograph the moon is when there are clear skies and low levels of light pollution. If you’re based in a busy city or somewhere there is lots of light, try heading out into the country, or somewhere there is less light, as you’ll be able to get a much clearer view of the sky.
Make sure to check the lunar cycle too. Although you can photograph the moon in almost any phase, the best time is when it’s a waxing gibbous (when the moon is 50% illuminated but not yet a full moon) as you can better see the features on the surface. You can check the lunar cycle here.
You’ll need your DSLR camera and a good lens (preferably the longest one you have). While you can photograph the moon handheld, a sturdy tripod and, if you have one, a cable release trigger will also be useful if you’re worried about camera shake.
3. Composition & focus
Decide on how you want to frame your shot because this will determine where your point of focus is. If the moon is your main subject, then obviously you’ll want to focus directly on the moon. Autofocus should work, but you can easily switch to manual focus if it doesn’t.
4. Camera settings
To photograph the moon you’ll need complete control over your settings, so it’s best to work in manual mode. Your settings will vary depending on the conditions and what result you’re looking for, but the settings below should give a good base.
Moon photography settings:
Shutter speed: 1/125
These were the settings used to capture the image above, which was shot with a 200mm lens with a 2x converter, but remember you can easily adjust these as you shoot. Experiment with different combinations to see what gives the best result (for a great trick to help determine exposure times, you might find this video, which shows how to photograph using only moonlight, useful).
I put these tips into practice in the video below, where I show you exactly how to photograph the moon. You'll see the equipment, camera settings and techniques to get a great shot of the moon - and you don't even have to go very far to get a good shot!
If you’re still looking for more inspirational moon photography ideas, take a look at the 2018 Astronomy Photographer of the Year winners.
Learn how to photograph the moon.
The science and challenges of photographing the moon
If you’re interested in the science and history behind some of the most iconic moon images, make sure to watch our exclusive live talk show commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings. I also discuss the science of photography in space and some of the moon landings conspiracy theories in this article here.
For more creative photography techniques, visit our Advanced section. These classes cover everything from how to photograph at twilight to light painting and photographing landscapes with flash. Otherwise, if you're looking to brush up on the basics, our Essentials section provides a foundation of knowledge to get your started.
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