At one time or another, many photographers have aimed their camera at the moon in an effort to capture its mysterious beauty. Photographing the moon presents a challenge, however, because more than a few things need to be taken into consideration when planning a photograph of the moon.
You will need to consider:
- the moon’s phase (full, half, crescent, etc.) / the date
- the moon’s height in the sky / the time of day or night
- the direction of the rising and setting of the moon if you want the moon close to the horizon to include objects or landscape in the frame
- the weather
NASA’s Complete Sun and Moon Data for One Day is a free online tool that provides information on the sun and moon for a given date and location. This tool is great for photographers because it quickly and easily helps to find an ideal time for lunar photography.
In addition to the planning and patience that is required for moon photography, a bit of skill is needed to appropriately compose and expose the photograph.
Composition and Exposure
When composing a photograph of the moon, you first need to decide whether you want to just shoot the moon itself or the moon with surrounding objects and/or landscape.
The Moon Itself
If your goal is to capture the detailed surface of the moon, you will want to zoom in quite a bit. For this, you will need a telephoto lens to fill the frame with the moon as much as possible so that you can avoid cropping later. A tripod is usually necessary for longer lenses because they have a greater chance of causing blurry photos due to camera shake.
The Moon with Objects and/or Landscape
In pictures in which the moon is the main focus, it is better to underexpose the foreground than to overexpose the moon. Use your camera’s spot metering setting to expose for the moon. Also consider bracketing if you are not sure of the best combination of settings.
Just after sunset and when the moon is close to the area of the horizon that the sun has set are excellent conditions for landscape shots that include the moon. The sky and landscape are still somewhat illuminated by the sun and the moon is visible near the horizon.
Do you like taking pictures of the moon? Please feel free to share your work in the comments!
Photo by makelessnoise.