Tips To Photograph The Moon

Photographing the moon tends to challenge and confuse beginner photographers.

What happens?

Images are often overexposed, revealing nothing more than a bright white blob in the sky.

Why is the moon hard to photograph?

Many beginner photographers start by taking pictures at night, and this creates opposite effects in a sense.

What does that mean?

If you think of the moon as a big bright light, it's surrounded by the night sky. Do not let the darkness of the night fool you.

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

Therefore, the camera, in the auto setting, needs to react to this bright subject. If you are using your manual setting, you need to adjust your exposure to render the correct exposure.

Camera's such as the Nikon Coolpix 900 and 1000 have a dedicated moon setting which is a pretty cool feature.

Do you need a tripod to photograph the moon?

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

Camera shake refers to movement caused when you attempt to hold the camera steady, but it's not going well.

The moon is a moving subject.

When I compose for the moon, I generally approach it in one of two ways.

  • After thinking about the placement in my frame and checking my exposure, I'll take the shot quickly.
  • After the same 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 tells us 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 tells you how long it takes the camera to take the photo.

In comparison, if you photographed a tree in the same nighttime light, you will 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