Home Photography Questions What is the DSLR setting for photography of sun and moon?

What is the DSLR setting for photography of sun and moon?

Nisarg Pandya

answered on February 5, 2018

You will need following things

  1. A DSLR camera with a 200mm+ telephoto lens or a point and shoot camera that has an optical zoom capability.
  2. A stable tripod.
  3. Remote camera trigger (optional). If you do not have one, a timer in your camera will also work
  4. Make sure you are in such a place where city lights don't affect your photo shoot. I would suggest going outside city area where you can find no lights, like Highways, Village etc. 


And following camera setting

Camera Mode: Set your camera mode to full Manual Mode.

ISO: Set your ISO to 100. If you have a point and shoot camera, see if you can find a menu setting to set your ISO to 100. Make sure “Auto ISO” is turned Off.

Aperture: Set your aperture to f/11.

Shutter Speed: Set your shutter speed to 1/125 

Lens Focus: Set your lens to manual focus (either through a switch on the lens or on the camera) and set your focus to infinity. Be careful while setting the focus to infinity, as some lenses allow focusing beyond infinity. If you do not have such a feature in your camera, then try setting your lens to the center of the infinity sign, then take a picture and see if it came out sharp by zooming in the rear LCD of the camera.

And voila, you will get this type of results



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answered on November 6, 2018
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14 Tips for Shooting the Moon

One of the first words I learned how to say was, "Moon." All of my life, I have been fascinated by our natural satellite and I have been photographing it for as long as I have had a camera. My photos have gotten better over the years, but I still search for the perfect photo of the moon. Here are some tips and thoughts for your own lunar photography.

Above photograph: A waxing gibbous moon the day before the full moon. Fujifilm X-T1; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/500-second, ISO 200

Photographs ©Todd Vorenkamp

Moonrise over Ensenada, Mexico, at the end of the Newport-Ensenada sailboat race. The full moon rose the next night. Nikon D1x; Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 150mm (225mm, 35mm equivalent); f/5.0, 1/100-second, ISO 400

1. Plan your shot

There are two basic types of lunar photography:
1. the moon is the main (or only) object in the image,
2. the moon is an element of a landscape image.

A waxing gibbous moon captured. The slight softness is likely a combination of a teleconverter and relatively slow shutter speed caused by the fixed f/22 aperture. Nikon D300; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope with a Nikon Tc-201 2x teleconverter @ 2000mm (3000mm, 35mm equivalent); f/27, 1/25-second, ISO 100 (should have been at ISO 200)

For the first, the main planning you will have to do is know the weather and the phase of the moon and have the right gear. (More on gear later.)

For the second, you need to engage in more extensive planning. Where do you envision the moon in your shot? When is it rising or setting? Again, what phase is it in? There is software, websites, and mobile applications that can help you track the moon's position at a given location. Sometimes you may stumble on a lucky shot, but there are rewards for being prepared and planning an epic landscape featuring the moon overhead.

The waning gibbous moon sets over the Pacific Ocean, as viewed from Highway 101, in McKinleyville, California, at dawn the day following a full moon. Nikon D300; Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 200mm (300mm, 35mm equivalent); f/8, 1/90-second, ISO 200

2. Moon phases

The majestic full moon is what grabs most people's attention. Unfortunately, the full moon makes for the most boring lunar photos. Why? Because the entire disc of the moon is illuminated, you get a relatively low-contrast white disc overhead. When waxing toward a full moon, or waning following one, the partially illuminated moon reveals its wonderful texture of craters and their shadows. If you want to capture a "full moon," photographically, you are better off the day before or after the true full moon period.

You can photograph the full moon, but many find that the lack of texture and shadow on the face of the moon makes the images less visually interesting than non-full moon photos. Nikon D1x; Nikon Reflex-NIKKOR 500mm f/8 with Tc-201 2x teleconverter; f/16, 1/500-second, ISO 125

Gibbous, quarter, and crescent moons all have their places in the world of photography and they can all be visually interesting and engaging. Don't limit yourself only to when the moon is full.

The crescent moon is difficult to photograph due to the smaller reflecting visible surface area of the satellite. Two things are working in the photographer's favor: 1. the sky is brighter when the crescent moon is overhead and, 2. today's digital cameras are getting better and better, with high ISO images allowing faster shutter speeds that will help reduce motion blur and keep the crescent moon sharp. Fujifilm X-T1; Leica APO-77 Televid @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/4-second, ISO 400

3. Moon position

The position of the moon overhead is something to consider. If you are only photographing the moon, you'll have a better chance at a sharp photo when it is overhead at its zenith. This is because when the moon is lower on the horizon, the light it reflects has to travel through greater distances of Earth's atmosphere. Of course, if the moon is an element in your landscape photo, its position is critical to your image, regardless of its distance above the horizon.

The full moon rises over the Ocean House, in Watch Hill, Rhode Island. This photo was planned months in advance after I saw a watercolor painting of this scene. I would have preferred to shoot it the day before the full moon, but I could not be in the area until the next day. Fujifilm X-T1; Leica PC-Super-Angulon-R 28mm f/2.8 lens (42mm, 35mm equivalent); -second, f/4, ISO 200

4. Clouds

Clear nights are preferred by many photographers. But, on nights with scattered clouds, or thin overcast layers, do not be deterred from attempting to photograph the moon. There are times when cloudy skies can part or be penetrated by the moon and lead to great photographic opportunities.

A thin, overcast layer causes a halo to appear around the full moon prior to the December 21, 2010, lunar eclipse. The constellation Orion is in the lower right corner. Nikon D300; Nikon 20mm f/3.5 AI lens (30mm, 35mm equivalent); f/8, 15 seconds, ISO 200

5. Atmospheric turbulence

There are nights that, at first glance look crystal clear, but on closer inspection, are not. Air is not uniform in density. Because of this, we get twinkling stars overhead. That twinkling is caused by atmospheric turbulence and it can turn any ground-based lunar image into a not-so-sharp rendition of the moon.

The full moon rises over the San Diego skyline. Nikon D300; Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 lens @ 112mm (168mm, 35mm equivalent); f/5.6, 1/90-second, ISO 200

6. Composition

When photographing the moon alone in the sky, the natural tendency is to center the moon in the image. If you dare, try to mix things up. Center the moon's shadow if photographing a crescent moon. Use the Rule of Thirds. Rotate a quarter moon 90 degrees. As passengers on Spaceship Earth, we are used to the moon having a certain look and perspective. As a photographic artist, you are not restricted to that perspective.

Be flexible with your lunar compositions. Up and down on Earth does not have to match up and down on the moon. This horizontal waxing gibbous reminds me of the Apollo 8 Earthrise photo from lunar orbit. Nikon D300; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/100-second, ISO 100

7. Lens choice

If you are shooting the moon as part of a landscape, your lens focal length will be determined by what portions of the landscape you want in the frame. With a 50mm lens on a full-frame camera, the moon's size in the photograph will resemble more or less what your eye sees in real life-it will be fairly small. When you go with a wide-angle lens, the moon will appear smaller in the frame.

A US Navy Boeing CH-46D Seaknight helicopter, Sideflare 65, prepares to land on the flight deck of the USS Rainier (AOE-7), in the Indian Ocean, with a waxing gibbous moon rising in the background. Nikon D100; Nikon 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 28mm (42mm, 35mm equivalent); f/7.1, 1/200-second, ISO 800

If you are shooting the moon alone, you can get pretty good results with a 200mm or 300mm lens, but to really fill the frame, you will likely want an even longer telephoto lens or you can use a teleconverter to extend a lens you already own.





8. Tripod

With modern image-stabilization lenses, coupled with a fast shutter speed and noiseless higher ISO performance, it isn't unreasonable to take a handheld photograph of a bright moon with a 300mm lens-or longer. Photographers using image-stabilized 2000mm super-zoom cameras have captured amazing handheld images of the moon.

You do not need expensive gear, heavy tripods, and big lenses to photograph the moon. This is a handheld image from a point-and-shoot super-zoom camera in automatic mode. Nikon COOLPIX P900; 357mm (2000mm 35mm-equivalent); f/6.5, 1/500-second, ISO 250

Minus some steady hands and some electronic luck, you will want to photograph the moon from a steady tripod to get the best results.

9. Mirror lock-up and remote release

When photographing the moon through long telephoto lenses, any amount of movement can soften the image. Therefore, use a remote shutter release (wired or wireless) and, on an SLR camera, use mirror lock-up to minimize vibrations.

Here is a waxing crescent moon, captured a day before the first quarter. Fujifilm X-T1; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/125-second, ISO 200

10. Exposure

There are no hard and fast rules for exposure for the moon because there are many variables. Some charts provide a baseline, but be ready to adjust as you work with your heavenly model above.

ISO Lets start here. When photographing a gibbous, quarter, or even a larger crescent moon in the sky by itself, there is often enough reflected sunlight to allow you to shoot at your camera's native ISO. Even though you will likely be photographing the moon at night, remember that it is a relatively bright object and will not require higher and noisier ISO settings. More extreme crescent moons may require an ISO bump, as will handheld lunar photography.

For moon-in-landscape photos, you may need to adjust your ISO to help maintain a certain aperture or shutter speed.

Aperture Sharpness is the name of the game when photographing the moon. Because of this, shoot your lens at its sweet-spot aperture and adjust shutter speed and, then, ISO as needed. Shooting wide open may make the moon softer, as will diffraction from stopping the aperture down too much. Shoot in the sweet spot for whatever lens you are using.

If the moon is a part of a landscape, and you need shallow depth of field, by all means, shoot with wide apertures, but know the moon will not be sharp in those images.

Shutter Speed Short shutter speeds are used to freeze action. The moon orbits the Earth at approximately 2,290 miles per hour. That is fast. Luckily, because it is a mean distance of 238,855 miles, it doesn't streak overhead at more than three times the speed of sound. However, it is moving, and shooting with a slow shutter speed will cause the moon to blur in your images. A good rule of thumb is to keep your shutter speed at a 1/125-second minimum.

The moon heads for the horizon over the Brooklyn Bridge, in New York City. Nikon Df; Tokina 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 30mm; f/8, 14 seconds, ISO 200

11. Metering

When you point the camera skyward to catch the moon, depending on the metering modeselected, the camera is going to take the inky black of space into account when exposing your image. You want to expose for only the moon because it doesn't matter if the blackness of outer space remains black in your frame. Therefore, it is best to use center-weighted or spot metering to tell the camera to expose only for that really bright section of the frame.

The moon rises over a fog bank, in Kneeland, California. Fujifilm X-T1; Fujifilm 35mm f/1.4 lens (52mm, 35mm equivalent); f/5.6, 8.5 sec., ISO 200

12. Focus

Guess what? This is usually a part of lunar photography that isn't challenging at all because the moon is bright and modern autofocus systems should have no problem locking good focus on the moon. For manual focus, use electronic focus guides, viewfinder prisms, and/or live view and focus peaking.

Literally standing in a heavy fog bank in Northern California, I spotted this moon-bow behind me while waiting for a break in the fog. The colors of the moon-bow are not as vibrant as the sun's rainbows, yet it is still a beautiful phenomenon. Focusing this image was far more difficult than focusing an image with the moon in the frame. Fujifilm X-T1; Fujifilm 14mm f/2.8 (21mm, 35mm equivalent); f/2.8, 60 seconds, ISO 200

13. Dynamic range

When shooting at night, the moon may very well be the brightest object in the frame. If you are including landscape in your image, it will be relatively much, much darker than the moon. This will make it difficult to properly expose the moon and still retain some detail in the landscape. This is why silhouetted landscapes are prevalent in images where the moon shows contrast and definition. The dynamic range of digital cameras is getting better all the time, but many lunar photographers use composite images, or allow the moon to go pure white to show the foreground.

A US Navy Boeing CH-46D Seaknight helicopter maneuvers above the ocean with a waxing gibbous moon overhead. Nikon D100; Nikon 28-200mm f/3.5-5.6 lens @ 98mm (147mm, 35mm equivalent); f/7.1, 1/750-second, ISO 800

14. Bracketing

Regardless of the type of moon photos (alone or landscape), you may want to try bracketing your exposures. Digital photography gives you the opportunity to take "free" photographs, so when you are photographing the moon, shoot a lot and shoot some more. In post processing, you will find that some photos are sharper than others taken with identical settings, due to atmospheric interference and other factors. Bracket or adjust your exposure to see if you get better results at different apertures or shutter speeds.

The Palomar Observatory under moonlight and a lot of digital noise. Nikon D100; Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 lens @ 18mm (27mm, 35mm equivalent); f/3.5, 3 seconds, ISO 1600

My grandmother used to call it "Todd's Moon," but I will gladly share it with you. What other tips and techniques do you have for photographing the moon? Tell us in the Comments section, below!

Waning gibbous. Nikon D300; Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope @ 1000mm (1500mm, 35mm equivalent); f/13, 1/500-second, ISO 200

Stay tuned to B&H Photo's Explora blog for more articles on astrophotography leading up to the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017!

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Here is my $0.02 on sharpness of solar, astronomical, and lunar images:

The sun is a mean distance of approximately 93 million miles away and the moon is a mean distance of 238,855 miles away. Neither the moon's cratered surface nor the sun's explosive surface make them perfectly smooth spheres.

When I pixel-split my solar images, be it the ones captured with a sharp Nikon 300mm f/4, a sharp Leica APO-Televid 77 spotting scope, or any other optic, regardless of whether I am using a glass or metal-type solar filter, the sun is only, at its best, "kind of" sharp.

The same applies to images of the moon. I get sharp images, but never as sharp as I really, really want to get.

This got me thinking.

When you photograph something outside of our atmosphere, there is a fair amount of air between you and the subject. The thickness of Earth's atmosphere is approximately 300 miles, with most of the dense air in the lower altitudes (obviously). Light is transmitted from the sun (or stars) or reflected from the moon (and planets) and it travels through the vacuum of space until it reaches earth. Once it arrives in the atmosphere, all your sharpness bets are off.

If you took a photo of a building, mountain, or person miles and miles away, especially on a hazy day, you probably wouldn't really expect a super-sharp image, right? Now, think about an image of something captured on the far side of dozens of miles of air. Sharp? Probably not.

So, if you are wondering what lens or filter is the sharpest to photograph distant things, or if you are wondering why your lunar craters or sunspots are not tack-sharp, even though you spent a ton of money on a super-sharp lens, just be grateful that earth has a protective shield around it that gives us air to breath and protects us from the harshness of outer space. And, also remember that there is a reason they try to put telescopes in dry places at high altitudes-or in orbit above the atmosphere!



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