Tips for Capturing Phenomenal Pictures of the Moon

Unearth top secrets from these Shutterstock contributors on how they shot their favorite incredible photographs of the moon.

Humans may have put a man on the moon 50 years ago, but taking good pictures of the moon has its own challenges. While it’s not quite the same as sending a human into space, if you’ve ever tried to capture the beauty of that shining orb in the night sky, you know it can be a difficult to do it well.

Tips for Capturing Phenomenal Pictures of the Moon — A Human TouchImage by Saskin Paraska

Having said that, many of our contributors have met and exceeded this challenge (taking pictures of the moon, not walking on it. Now, that would be an out of this world photo shoot). We’ve got so much great footage of the moon in our collection that we were able to recreate the moon landing with stock from our contributors. Watch the video if you haven’t already checked it out.

If you want to know more about how to take pictures of the moon, here are some tips and tricks from the contributors whose pictures of space and moon landing footage we used to make that video.

Tips for Capturing Phenomenal Pictures of the Moon — MoonwalkingClip from Lightberserk

While one clip featured in our video from Lightberserk has elements furnished by NASA (NASA Images has photos and videos you can use subject to its guidelines), she gave the following tips for contributors looking to create their own moon footage.

How to take photos of the moon

Full moon photos need planning. Plan your shot around the moon’s most dramatic cycles such as supermoons, full moons or blood moons, as they lend themselves to the most visual interest. This is an important step to capturing beautiful photos of the moon.

Tips for Capturing Phenomenal Pictures of the Moon — Special PhenomenaDramatic lunar events like the blood moon in January 2019 make for eye-catching moon pictures. Image by Christophe Lehenaff

Use a super telephoto lens, such as a Panasonic Leica 100-400mm on a GH5 with a 2X crop factor of a micro 4.3 sensor. This turns the lens into a 200-800mm full frame equivalent lens. If you then shoot a 4K video and deliver a cropped 1080 pixel file, you can further extend the magnification to 1600mm. This will deliver a moon shot that nearly fills the frame.

Tips for Capturing Phenomenal Pictures of the Moon — Telephoto LensesUse a telephoto lens to capture a picture of the moon like Haniff66

Contributor Flash Movie, whose clip was also featured in our moon landing video, recommended using a shutter speed of at least 20 seconds, combined with a fast lens.

A fast lens means the lens in question has a large maximum aperture. The bigger the aperture, the faster the lens will be. A bigger aperture (or small “f” number) will allow more light to reach the camera’s sensor, which means faster shutter speeds can be used in low light situations, such as capturing the moon at night.

Tips for Capturing Phenomenal Pictures of the Moon — Heavyweight TripodFootage from Flash Movie

Use a good, sturdy heavyweight tripod to prevent camera shake. This is an absolute must when using a telephoto lens at the long end. If you don’t have a heavyweight tripod, then attach your camera bag to the hook that most lightweight tripods have underneath them.

Use a little sharpening in post-production when editing to really make the details stand out on your final image. But. be careful not to use too much as it’s really easy to over-sharpen and ruin your image.

Tips for Capturing Phenomenal Pictures of the Moon — Edit with CareExercise caution when sharpening up your image in post-production. Image by Romulic-Stojcic
How to take pictures of the moon with a smartphone

There’s no replacement for using professional equipment to take pictures of the moon but today’s smartphone camera technology allows you to get a pretty decent shot as long as you understand its limitations and learn a few, simple hacks.

Make the most of it

Earlier this year, some of us were lucky enough to have witnessed the “wolf moon.”

The Daily Mail ran a “how-to” guide for those using just a smartphone to nab that perfect picture of the moon. Some of the tips included were downloading a specialist night photography app to maximize your smartphone camera’s features; lowering your camera’s ISO light sensitivity to lessen distortion; setting your focus to the highest setting for maximum clarity; and adjusting your camera’s exposure to minimize blurring.

The issue with most smartphone cameras is that they only have a wide aperture, which takes in a lot of light. This makes the moon look overexposed, or like a white glowing ball in your pictures.

You could try to use the “nighttime” setting on your phone, depending on what make or model you have as well. To correct the wide aperture issue, this blogger used two apps to reduce ISO and increase exposure.

Get some perspective

There are also some more practical tips for getting that perfect picture on your phone. Have you ever noticed how big the moon looks when it’s rising on the horizon? Try to pick a spot that allows you to capture it from that perspective as opposed to high in the night sky, as this Newsweek article recommends. If you live in a city, getting away from light pollution from traffic and office buildings will make the moon appear brighter.

Or, why not try taking a picture through a telescope, like this Shutterstock contributor did.

Tips for Capturing Phenomenal Pictures of the Moon — Get Creative with TelescopesShoot for the moon (through a telescope) like this contributor

So get out there in this year of the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and start snapping some pics to recreate that special moment.

That’s not all. Learn more about shooting the night sky with these articles:

How to Create Something “Out of This World” with Space Images
Video Tutorial: How to Master the Art of Night Photography
Top Photographers Share Tips on Shooting Outdoors at Night
7 Astrophotographers on Making Out-of-This-World Images
How to Photograph the Starry Night Sky: 7 Expert Tips

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