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Most people have taken one look at the moon, saw it was big and beautiful, and snapped a picture of it using their smartphone camera — only to come up with a photo of a teeny, tiny white orb against a black background. If you’ve experienced this, you’re not alone: thousands of people have taken photos of the moon without capturing its beauty and brilliance. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to ensure you can take impressive pictures of the moon. Here are some of them:
Determine when to take the photo
There’s nothing wrong with just going outside and snapping a picture of the moon. But, if you want to capture it at a certain phase (i.e. full moon or crescent moon), you’ll have to track its phases throughout the month and identify the day/s when you should take a photo. You should also determine the best time to get your camera out. The moon looks bigger when it’s near the horizon than when it’s right above your head, so you might want to take a picture as it rises or as it sets.
Pick the right location
If you simply want to capture the moon against the night sky, you can photograph it virtually anywhere. The only exception is if in you’re in a busy city with plenty of air pollution, which can affect the clarity of your picture. If this is the case, you’ll want to travel to a remote location with minimal pollution, ideally with high elevation so you’ll be closer to the moon.
Of course, if you want to capture the moon along with a foreground, you’ll need to choose a location that will help you take the scene you have in mind.
Get the necessary equipment
Ordinary smartphone cameras just won’t cut it — if you want to take clear, high-quality photos of the moon, you need to buy or borrow the right camera. A DSLR or mirrorless camera is the best option, although you can also use a high-end point-and-shoot camera with manual focus and high optical zoom capability.
You’ll also need to have the right lens, which depends on what type of photo you want to take. For instance, if you want to center on the moon and capture all its details, you’ll need a telephoto lens with a 200 mm focal length or longer. If you want to capture the moon as well as some scenery, you’ll need a wide-angle lens. Just make sure to get a wide-angle lens with a focal length of 50 mm or more —anything shorter than that will make the moon look tiny in your pictures.
Choose the correct camera settings
Make sure to set your camera at manual mode, and use an aperture of f/11 and a low ISO (ideally around ISO 100) to accommodate the moon’s brightness. Pair these with a shutter speed of 1/125 to ensure you won’t lose any details due to motion blur, which is caused by rotation of the moon and the earth. Use the infinity setting for the lens barrel and choose manual focus — your camera’s autofocus won’t be able to lock in on celestial objects.
Take these steps now to take great pictures of the moon!