Tips To Photograph The Moon

Photographing the moon tends to challenge and confuse beginner photographers.

The reason is that photos are often overexposed or too light, revealing nothing more than a bright white blob in the sky.

So why is the moon hard to photograph?

Many beginner photographers, including me at one time, have a different mindset when taking pictures of the moon at night.

If you look at it this way - the moon is like a bright night light surrounded by the night sky. So do not let the darkness of the night fool you.

Remember, your subject is the moon, and it's often significantly bright.

Therefore, the camera must react to this bright subject when in the automatic camera setting. Or, if you use your manual setting, you must adjust your exposure to render the correct exposure.

Cameras such as the Nikon Coolpix 900 and 1000 have a dedicated moon setting to assist with taking moon photos.

Do you need a tripod to photograph the moon?

I recommend using a tripod to help prevent blurry photos caused by camera shake.

Camera shake refers to movement caused when you attempt to hold the camera steady. This is often caused by a shutter speed that needs to be faster for successfully hand-holding the camera steady.

Remember, the moon is a moving subject.

Tips to photograph the moon - I approach it in one of two ways when I compose for the moon, although I placed it in the center for the purpose of the post.

  • After thinking about the moon's placement, or composition, within the scene and checking my exposure, I'll take the shot quickly.
  • After the exact placement and exposure planning, I wait for the moon to move into where I want it in my frame and then take the photo.

My camera settings.

The example shows that the camera recognizes the moon's brightness in the night sky, with a relatively fast shutter speed of 1/500 of a second. Shutter speed relates to how long the camera records the scene in easy-to-understand terms.

In comparison, if you photographed a surrounding landscape with limited lighting, you need a slower shutter speed to adjust for the loss of light, perhaps 10" (10 seconds), for example.

Note: image blur is evident in the close-up caused by the increased zoom, compounded with the moon's movement and a slight breeze affecting the camera, even while mounted on a tripod.

  • Nikon Coolpix P1000: f/6.3 1/500 ISO 220 (auto moon setting)
  • Focal length 359mm

  • Nikon Coolpix P1000: f/8 1/500 ISO 280 (auto moon setting)
  • Focal length 1078mm