Taking the photograph of a moon can be little tricky. If you don’t expose it properly then you will end up in getting a bright circular white spot (white blob) in the image as a moon. You may miss the details like the crest and the shadows. I would always recommend getting an HDR (High Dynamic Range) image of the moon rather than going for a single shot. It involves taking 3 or more shots of the moon with varying exposure and combines them to get all the possible details.
You should have the following equipments with you for getting the perfect snap of the moon:
1. A DSLR camera with a good telephoto lens (focal length of 200mm and above) or a Point and Shoot Digital Camera with good Optical zoom.
2. A stable tripod.
3. A Remote Trigger (If you have one)
You can photograph moon with a DSLR as well as with a point and shoot camera with good optical zoom. If you are having a DSLR camera then use the lens having the maximum focal length. Usually, telephoto lenses and super telephoto lenses are the preferred lenses for moon photography. So, take out the lens, which has got the maximum focal length. If you have got an extender then attach that too to your lens system so that you can achieve the maximum focal length. Greater the focal length greater will be the amount of captured details.
If you are using a point and shoot camera then you must put into full zoom (optical zoom) and then go for the shot.
A stable tripod is also a must. You will have to go for an HDR image for a nice snap. Certain DSLR cameras come with inbuilt HDR fetaure. Otherwise, you can make use of the Auto Exposure Bracketing feature in your camera and take 3 pictures at different exposures, say -1, 0 and 1. Then, combine these 3 using any HDR processing tools like Adobe Photoshop. A stable surface is a must since you are using Auto Bracketing.
If you have a wireless trigger or remote cable release use that too. If you don’t have one then better use the timer in your camera and set it to some 2 or 5 seconds and take the snap with the mirror locked up. This can reduce some amount of camera shake.
The above snap is taken using Canon EOS 500D with Canon EF 70-200 F4.0 L IS USM lens. Details of the shot are given in a snap which comes at the end of this article.
You can use the following settings to get a good crisp image of the moon:
1. Mode: Manual mode is the recommended one. You can also go for the Shutter priority mode.
2. Focusing: Auto Focus won’t help you to get the perfect shot. You will have to set the focusing to manual. The focusing distance should be infinity. If you have a focusing scale on your lens then rotate the focusing ring until it shows infinity. Otherwise, rotate it fully to the right and have a look through the viewfinder to make sure that the moon is properly exposed.
For a point and shoot camera, manual focusing feature won’t be available. So, you will have to go for Autofocusing and expose for the darker section around the moon and capture the shoot. If you try to expose for the moon then you will end up getting the image of a white blob. This is because the inbuilt algorithm of your digital camera will see the moon as a white spot and will try to make it brighter.
3. Aperture: You can use an aperture value of f11 or f9 if you are using manual mode. In Shutter priority mode, the camera will select the Aperture value depending on the shutter speed value.
4. ISO: You can use a base value of ISO. As a thumb rule set the ISO value to either 100 or 200. Make sure that you are not using Auto ISO mode.
5. Shutter speed: Shutter speed should be the same as the focal length. Suppose, you are using a 200 mm telephoto lens then you can set a shutter speed of 1/200. Some of the recommended shutter speeds are 1/125 and 1/250.
6. Camera Metering: Use spot metering option available in your camera
rather than evaluative metering.
7. Monochrome: I would recommend you to take moon’s picture in Monochrome mode or black and White mode. This will bring a better perspective of the crests and the other sections in the moon. There will be a good contrast.
Above screenshot shows the settings used for taking the photo of the full moon with Cloudy white balance (RAW format details).
There are no hard and fast rules. You can also try your own creative settings.
When to Photograph the Moon?
The best time to take a moon’s photograph is during the full moon time. You can also take the photo of the moon once in two days or once in three days until it becomes the gorgeous full moon. Then combine everything into a single photograph, which shows different stages of the moon on each day.