How to take beautiful photos of the Moon?

Are you not afraid of aiming for the moon? So here are some tips for taking a good photo of our terrestrial satellite. From equipment to settings, including the composition of the photo.

You read it on the internet, this weekend there will be a super moon of the iridescent retrograde flowers of Mars and our favorite satellite will appear 38 times bigger than normal. What a once in a lifetime opportunity to take memorable photos with your brand new awesome camera!

Well, failed, in fact this “super moon” does not exist (like all the others, to be honest). But that’s no reason to put away your photographic equipment. Whether the Moon has a great nickname or not, it’s always an interesting sight to capture. Here are some tips for successful Moon shots.

1 – Equip yourself with the right equipment

We won’t tell you, the Moon is far from home. On average, the star orbiting 384,400 km from our planet. Even if it can seem imposing in the sky, taking a picture is therefore a challenge if you do not have the right equipment.

To take good photos of the Moon, you should therefore ideally:

A digital camera (bridges, hybrid or reflex)

To take a good photo, you should preferably use an APN (digital camera) rather than a smartphone. The large zoom that most devices offer will highlight your subject better than your smartphone, which can quickly lose its footing or emit a white pixel slurry on a black background.

If you have an ultra high-end mobile with extraordinary photographic capabilities, try the adventure anyway, you have nothing to lose.

A long focal length or a big zoom

As mentioned just before, to get a correct photo you have to be able to get closer to your subject without losing too much quality. For that, nothing better than a long focal lens (200 mm minimum, more ideally) to mount on your hybrid or your reflex, or a bridge camera (without interchangeable lenses) with a very large zoom.

If you don’t have a camera, you can try switching to smartphone lens kits that are easily found on the net, but the results will vary greatly depending on the quality of the accessory and the lenses.

A tripod

Who says very big zoom also says very big need to stabilize, since the slightest movement will make you change your angle completely due to your very distant aim.

A digital camera, a good lens and a tripod are your best allies for taking great photos. // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

2 – Use the right settings

Once all your equipment is on your back, you still have to use it correctly. The Moon is a complicated subject to take a picture, because it is a shining star in the middle of a black background. So you have to be smart.

Switch to spot exposure metering

By default, cameras make a so-called “matrix” exposure measurement, ie calculated over the entire frame. Problem, in the middle of a dark night, this mode will increase the exposure to try to brighten the dark sky. As a result, your bright moon will be completely overexposed. Spot metering allows you to calculate the exposure on the central point (here, the Moon) without taking into account the rest of the frame. If your camera does not offer this setting, try lowering the exposure manually with the exposure compensation tool.

ISO, aperture and speed

To keep a good quality shot without too much digital noise (that unsightly grain that often spoils the quality of the photo), keep a very low ISO. You don’t need to artificially crank up the brightness, the Moon normally reflects enough light back at you. The same goes for the opening. Do not choose a value f too low on pain of overexposing your subject. An underexposed photo is always more recoverable than a burnt photo. For speed, the tripod allows you to avoid camera shake, so feel free to use this aspect as an adjustment variable (without dropping too low, as it might not be visible, but the Moon is moving. very quickly around our planet, at 3,680 km / h).

Shoot in RAW

Most cameras allow you to capture uncompressed snapshots which, unlike .JPG, will give you a lot more leeway for editing. You will need to spend some time on your favorite editing software to “develop” your photo, but the results will be worth it.

And with a smartphone?

The above tips are still useful, but see if there is also an “astrophotography” or “night landscape” mode within your application. These can make your job easier.

The location of the settings described on a Canon camera (menus may change depending on your make and model) // Source: Photo Corentin Béchade for Numerama

3 – Work on your frame

The advice may seem obvious, but for your photo to be successful it must be well framed. To make your Moon photo successful, put it in perspective with an object or monument. A photo of the Moon alone in the sky is pretty, but it gives no idea of ​​its size.

If you are very good and patient, an airplane can also serve as a ladder. // Source: Sebastien Lebrigand – Flickr (CANON eos 60D. Exposure 1 / 640s at 1000 iso. 1320 mm focal length) CC BY-SA 2.0

If you place it next to a building tower, the tip of a church or other monuments, the star will appear much more imposing and it will be easier to capture at a glance the different perspectives. The richer composition will also allow you to have a more interesting shot.

4 – Have fun!

If you’ve followed these tips correctly, you’ll be able to capture elegant snapshots of the Moon (even if it isn’t pink, blue, green, or orange like the internet had promised) without too much trouble. So play around with the rest of your tweaks to see what results you can get. The white balance will allow you to play with the color, the distance of the shot will allow you to play with the perspectives.

Trying to take pictures of the Moon also allows you to learn and discover your camera, so take advantage!

Look at the world from space

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