Photographing the moon ~ A Guide


“I did record a video going over all of this in detail. Over 3 hours of recording for a 12 minute video.  During the end of recording I realized the mic had come loose and it did not record 80% of what I said to the camera. :/  Do to time I could not record it again.  I will try recording it again in the future.  So instead of me recording the entire video again (for now)  I will share some in between highlights, video and pictures. Most of  the information will be in written form in this post.  Thanks.”  

        I have been photographing the moon since I first picked up a camera.   The moon has always fascinated me.  To look up and see we are just a tiny planet in this big universe.  I did not have the greatest of gear when I started photographing the moon.  My first pictures were done with a 35mm SRT Minolta using a 200mm manual focus lens.   I still wish I had those pictures.
Over the years I have developed certain little tricks that help me when photographing the moon.

There are some basics that you will need to know right off the bat.
Starting off:

  • Put your camera into Manual Mode.  This will give you optimum control over your settings.  This is the ideal mode to be in.   You will be adjusting your camera settings several different times during your moon photography session.
  • Use either a 200mm, 300mm, 500mm or more telephoto lens.  You can also use a telescope if you have the right connectors to attached your camera to the telescope (I am going to try that later this year).   You can use an 80mm lens also but know that this will give you a wider angle and smaller moon.. which can be beautiful also.
  • Tripod is a must.  I would recommend getting a sturdy tripod because you  might find yourself standing in a field where things can easily tip over.
  • Flash light.  This will help you find the gear you need in your camera bag.  It helps greatly! It’s a must!
  • Patience, patience and even more patience.  Getting that shot will take some time.  There will be focusing issues (I would recommend using manual focus if you can but that is up to you), you will start to get frustrated at how the photographs are coming out and so on.  Just be patient.  You will get there.
  • FULL CAMERA BATTERY!! Make sure you have charged your battery or batteries.  You can be outside for a few hours (like I was) trying to capture that shot.  So make sure you have your batteries charged.

 I first look to the sky.  I make sure I have a beautiful clear sky or a really interesting cloud formation to give some drama to the moon.   I grab my gear and look for a suitable location that will enable me to get the moon in my shot without any other distractions.  When I find this location I set my tripod up and put my camera into live view mode.  This enables me to look at the back of the screen instead of the eye piece to locate the moon.   I will sometimes switch back and forth from the eye piece to the live view mode.

One of the modes I photograph in is BULB MODE.  This mode is when you are basically telling your camera that you are taking full control over how long your shutter stay’s open and closes.  This will allow you to do exposure sessions lasting over 1 minute.  It is ideal to have a remote for this.  I am using a Nikon D7100 but you can do this mode on pretty much all of the Nikon, Canon, Sony and other brands.

Your settings will change throughout the shoot.  You might need to adjust your F-stop, ISO and shutter duration.  You will need to experiment a little while you are in the field for you to get the desired photographic look you want of the moon.

Here are some photographs I got with setting information:

Used a 500mm manual focus lens.

The video is a mixture of different shots I did during my 3 hours recording the this video.  I went out to create an in depth 12 minute video about moon photography.  I found out towards the end of recording that my mic got loose and was not connected to the camera.  You will hear me state this accident at the beginning of the video.  🙂  The rest that follows is me just taking some photographs and enjoy the night.  I hope you found this blog helpful and if any questions please feel free to ask!  Thanks.  Chris

5 thoughts on “Photographing the moon ~ A Guide

  1. Those are some awesome pics Chris! I cannot believe you spent all that time out there and got those stellar shots! You are so dedicated and talented! Great job!!!

  2. Nice! I have the d7100 with 300mm lens and when shooting photos of full moon, I am not able to manually focus in live view even with the LCD brightness turned down to -5 because the moon appears as a bright white sphere on the LCD screen. Even tried zooming in when in live view. This does not happen on my D5200. Any suggestions that would work to make sure the lens is focused on the moon would be most appreciated.

  3. Nice photos! I have D7100 with 300mm lens and in live view the moon is blown out on the LCD screen, preventing me from manually focusing, even with screen brightness set to -5. BTW, this does not happen on my D5200, I have read that others have this same problem when using the D7100 and photographing the moon, but have not come up with any work-around. Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

  4. Nice! Trying to use live view to focus full moon and can not focus due to moon being blown out on LCD screen. Even lowered screen brightness to -5. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    1. I’ve got the same problem. A google search and I could only find your question 🙂
      I usually like to manually focus in live view for landscape / critical focus work, but for the moon it doesn’t work as it fully blown out.
      I used a D610 as well as an Olympus Em10ii, but even the mirrorless camera could overcome this… Anyone care to mention if they found a way to do it, or we’re just stuck with AF or tedious manual focus by looking at the photos taken and adjusting??

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