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How To Take Photographs Of The Moon

Updated on August 27, 2016
Moon Shot
Moon Shot | Source

Ever since I was a kid I've had a fascination with the moon, the planets, and with space in general. I grew up when the Apollo moon program was in full swing and remember very well my parents waking me up to watch Neil Armstrong become the first person to walk on the moon. Those were exciting times.

As an adult I still hold this fascination with the moon and the stars, and have always wondered how people captured those stunning pictures of the moon and the planets. Certainly, to photograph the planets you will need something more than your average digital camera, but quality pictures of the moon can be taken if you know how to do it.

When most folks take a picture of the moon they usually point their camera at it and fire away. What they wind up with usually looks like a small white blob. Not exactly what you had in mind is it? If their camera has a zoom they’ll most likely give this a try and wind up with just a bigger white blob. Still not so good. Bigger, but still just a white blob. Because the moon is so bright and the background of space is so dark most initial attempts at photographing the moon come out very over exposed.

Small White Blob

The small white blob
The small white blob | Source

Big White Blob

The big white blob
The big white blob

Next up is usually an attempt at using some of the camera’s auto settings, such as night shot or the fireworks setting.

Unfortunately the results are no different and you’ll have the same white blob for the moon. Is it time to give up? Don’t despair, with a little know how and the right equipment you can get quality photographs of the moon similar to this.

Moon just after sunset
Moon just after sunset | Source
Full Moon at night.
Full Moon at night. | Source

Quite a difference! So how do you do it? The first thing to understand is what causes most moon pictures to be so over exposed.

One of the most common mistakes photographers make when first attempting to get lunar shots is underestimating the brightness of the moon. Your camera simply cannot adjust for the contrast between the brightness of the moon and the dark background when set to its auto mode. Your first shots will almost undoubtedly come out overexposed with an ugly bright circle where the moon should have been.

To get pictures without this over exposure you will need to make some adjustments to the settings on your camera.

Tripod
Tripod | Source

Equipment

It helps immensely to have the right equipment when attempting to photograph the moon. A digital SLR or a digital super zoom camera is necessary as in order to get a shot that fills your frame properly you will need at the very least a camera that allows you to zoom in to 200mm (4X digital zoom). A 400mm to 500mm zoom capability will allow you get some really nice close up shots of the moon.

If your lens can accommodate a teleconverter and you have one then use it. A 1.4 teleconverter will increase the focal length of a 200mm lens by 40% to 280mm. I should also mention that you will need a tripod to do this. When you zoom in as much as you’ll be zooming in, your images are much more susceptible to camera shake. A good tripod will save you a lot of frustration and some blurry pictures.

The last thing to consider using is a remote camera trigger. If you do not have one, and most people don’t, then using the timer on your camera will also work.

Moon at Dusk

Moon at dusk
Moon at dusk | Source
I use a Canon SX10 IS Super Zoom
I use a Canon SX10 IS Super Zoom | Source

Camera Settings

Choosing the correct moon photography settings is critical, and can be one of the hardest things to get right. Because of the variety of shooting conditions, there are no one-size-fits-all camera settings that work in all situations.

ISO Settings

Set your camera to its lowest ISO speed, usually 100. Since you are going to be using a tripod anyway then there is no need to boost the ISO speed, just set it to the lowest value possible as this will give you the cleanest picture your camera can give you.

Aperture

The preferred aperture for moon shots is f/8 but this will also depend on your lens, so a range of say f/5.6 ~ f/16 is OK. You’ll have to play with this to find the right aperture for your camera and the conditions. As a general guideline use an aperture f/11 for a full moon, f/8 for a half moon, and f/5.6 for a quarter moon.

Shutter Speed

Start with a shutter speed of 1/250 to 1/350 and take some test photos. You may have to adjust the shutter speed depending on the phase of the moon and its brightness. Remember that the moon is moving in the night sky as you are photographing it so using a slower shutter speed increases the chances of a blurry image. Also, remember that the longer you leave the shutter open the more light you are letting in and the chances of overexposure increase.

Auto Focus

While our inclination is to leave the camera on auto focus it is best to take your camera off of this setting and switch to manual focus. In the manual focus mode set the camera to the infinite setting.

Aperture settings
Aperture settings | Source

When

The best time to photograph the moon is usually just before sunrise or just after sunset. At this time the moon is close to the horizon and the residual light from the setting or rising sun can provide some different colors to the clouds and sky. For those crisp, clear shots of the moon against a deep black background shoot at night well after the sun has set.

August 10, 2014 Super Moon

August 10, 2014 Super Moon
August 10, 2014 Super Moon | Source
August 10, 2014 Super Moon
August 10, 2014 Super Moon | Source

Next time you get a clear evening and the moon is out grab your camera and give it a try. There is a certain amount of trial and error involved in getting this just right but once you do it can be a very rewarding experience. Good luck and remember, practice makes perfect. Happy shooting.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

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    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 6 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Give me a couple of days, my wife has our computer with her in Florida at the moment and I don't have those photos on the iPad.

    • LauraTallo profile image

      Laura Tallo 6 weeks ago from Louisiana

      I would need one in full resolution (300 ppi) instead of 72. My email is laura@lauratallo.com if you would care to send me some. Thank you!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 6 weeks ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Laura. I have never sold any jpegs or even thought about it to be honest. If you would like to use any of the moon photos in the hub feel free, you have my permission. I did visit your website, very interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

    • LauraTallo profile image

      Laura Tallo 6 weeks ago from Louisiana

      I do Fairy Photography for little girls (www.lauratallo.com). I would love a moon shot to composite into a fairy picture. Do you ever sell the jpegs?

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 14 months ago from Essex, UK

      Clear and straightforward advice to follow Bill, and a useful introduction to the much wider subject of astrophotography - as you rightly point out, most astronomic subjects require much more elaborate equipment, but I'm sure all who take up that hobby start with photographing the Moon.

      Even photographing the Moon has its problems - notably the extreme contrast of light and dark - but can be mastered as you have shown here, if you know how to set up the camera. It helps of course in this day and age of digital photography that you can take a whole series of test photos and instantly see exactly what you get without it costing the Earth (or the Moon).

      Although I've taken eclipse photos, I've never really tried to get good pictures of the Moon. You've spurred me on to try!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 20 months ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Kristen. I was always curious as to how this was done and with a little research and lots of practice it's now easy. Definitely an area of interest for me also. Thanks for stopping by, give it a try sometime.

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 20 months ago from Northeast Ohio

      Bill, fantastic shots of the moon! I love photography and astronomy. They seemed to go hand and hand. Great tips on how to take photos of the moon with your camera. Great lens!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Jenn, thank you. Hope you are giving it a try. Thanks for stopping by.

    • jennabee25 profile image

      Jenn Dixon 3 years ago from PA

      Great advice and great photos!!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 3 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Sage. Thanks for stopping by. Now is a great time to practice with the recent "Blood Moon". Give it a try. Have a great day.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 3 years ago

      Wow, great tips. I'm going to have to try some of them. I always get the white blobs, never anything really clear. Now I want to play around with my camera. Nice hub.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi renaissance dad. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. With today's technology our photos will be around for generations, which is a great thing.

    • renaissance dad profile image

      renaissance dad 4 years ago from Phoenix AZ

      Nice concise entry, thank you. Photography can be such a rewarding activity and with the right skills and available equipment almost anyone can have memories preserved for generations to come.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Kelly. It's a rite of passage that we all need to get a white blob first few times we try this :) Keep at it and in no time you'll have some great moon shots. Thanks for stopping by and good luck.

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      Kelly Umphenour 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Very cool! So glad Susan shared this with me. I have gotten just the bog white blob...I guess I didn't realize that the light was too bright. It's so far away - I didn't consider that! I'm looking forward to giving it another try now. Thanks a bunch!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Lynn. Give it a try. It's a great feeling when you finally get those great pictures of the moon. Good luck, let me know how it turns out.

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      Lynn S. Murphy 4 years ago

      oooo thank you. Next full moon I'm giving this awhirl and hopefully not get the blob anymore. TFS!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Suzette. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the hub. This whole moon thing has been a fascination of mine for years. Give it a try sometime. Many thanks, enjoy the weekend.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi vocalcoach. Don't give up yet. You can do this. A lot if it is trial and error. But, feel free to enjoy these photos :) Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave me a comment.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Sneha. I think we all got those white blobs first time we tried this. Don't despair, a little know-how and trial and error and you'll taking great shots of the moon. Many thanks for the visit.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Dyhannah. Glad you found this hub helpful. Give it a try sometime. Thanks for stopping by.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Susan. Give it a shot. It's actually great fun and when you get it right the pictures will be amazing. You've got the tools; 35mm & tripod. Just need the moon out tonight and you're all set. Have fun :)

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 4 years ago from Taos, NM

      Very interesting and informative hub for photographers. I learned a lot from this hub. Thanks so much for sharing your photo knowledge with us. Your photos of the moon are excellent and make the moon look so interesting. I love the 'blob' pictures, too. You are so right -- without knowing how to take a proper photo of the moon it comes out a 'blob'. Thanks again for your instructions.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

      Your photos of the moon are magnificent. I'd love to be able to capture the moon in a photo. But, I'm so new at this I can't even understand your vocabulary :) It may be less frustrating for me to simply enjoy the photographs of your outstanding pictures. Thanks!

    • Sneha Sunny profile image

      Sneha Sunny 4 years ago from India

      Awesome hub! Great tips. I really enjoyed the photographs. I keep on taking pictures of whatever I can, and I too am from those photographers who get nothing more than a white blob of moon! Will try out these tips. :)

    • Dyhannah profile image

      Dyhannah 4 years ago from Texas

      I love the moon and your hub is equally as captivating with great information and guidance. Excellent and very useful Hub.

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You've just inspired me to get out my old 35mm camera to try and get some moon shots. I have a great tri-pod buried in my closet. Can't wait to try this. Excellent hub!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hey Sheila. Its good to know that Pinterest generates traffic :) Every now and then I get in the mood to take pictures of the moon. It's great if you can find a nice location away from trees and lights. Really appreciate the visit and the vote, pin,etc. BTW, I do love Pinterest also, great site. Have a wonderful weekend.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi rajan. Thank you. It took a lot of trial and error but it's worth it once you get the hang of it. Give it a try sometime and let me know how it works out. Thanks for the vote, share, pin and everything else. Have a great day.

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      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great information and tips! It's been a long time since I have taken any pictures of the moon. I need to find a place that doesn't have so many trees! I love to take pictures when the moon is really big and fat! Great hub! Voted up, useful, beautiful and pinning! BTW, came here via Pintrest. :)

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Bill, first off, these pictures of the moon are just mind blowing. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips. I understand it takes a lot of time, effort and practice to get pictures such as these but at least I know how to go about it now.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Voted up, useful interesting, awesome and shared and pinned

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi hreichel. Thank you, appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment.

    • Hreichel profile image

      Heather Reichel 4 years ago from Northwestern Pennsylvania

      great work and nice photos voted up useful and beautiful

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Eddie. Took me a lot of trial and error but it's worth it in the end. Many thanks for the visit, vote, share, etc... Have a happy and healthy New Year.

    • eddiecarrara profile image

      Eddie Carrara 4 years ago from New Hampshire

      Hey bdegiulio,

      Not only does this hub have great tips, but is is also put together very well, anyone who is looking for information on how to take photographs of the moon will definitely benefit from the detailed information here, well done! Up, Awesome, and shared :)

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 4 years ago from Massachusetts

      Give it a try. It comes down to a certain amount of trial and error but it's worth it in the end when you get some great photos. Good Luck.

    • nakmeister profile image

      nakmeister 4 years ago from Lancaster, UK

      Great hub, thanks! I"m going to have to give this a go. Just need to get a new camera first...

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks deepak2u. Glad you enjoyed it and I hope it helps. Have a great day.

    • deepak2u profile image

      Govind Deepak Kumar 5 years ago from Andhra Pradesh,INDIA

      Very very interesting article

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks sradie. You figured it out on your own, way to go. That's how I did it, trial and error. That's half the fun and it's more rewarding when you finally get it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

    • sradie profile image

      sradie 5 years ago from Palm Coast FL

      I wish I'd read this long ago. I just recently figured it out through much trial and error. This hub would have given me everything I needed to get good images right away. Good job.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi leakeem. The moon on the horizon makes for a great shot. Thanks for commenting. Welcome to HubPages.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Nesbyte. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Give it a shot. Have a great day.

    • leakeem profile image

      leakeem 5 years ago from Earth

      Nice hub and really useful tips. Now the next to do is to wait 'til the skies are clear and the moon is low over the horizon. Thanks for sharing!

    • Nesbyte profile image

      Nesbyte 5 years ago from UK

      Brilliant hub, very informative. I might just try taking some shots of tonight now that I've read this.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi photostudiosupply. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Have a great day.

    • photostudiosupply profile image

      photostudiosupply 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

      Great tips for moon photography. Nice hub...

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      You're welcome. Just takes a little trial and error. Glad it worked out.

    • profile image

      Random 5 years ago

      Thanks a lot for this! Ive been trying to figure this out for some time now. Just got some great shots of Mr. Moon!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Melissa. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Give that full moon a "shot" tomorrow. Let me know how it works out. Good luck.

    • dappledesigns profile image

      dappledesigns 5 years ago from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest

      really great hub! right in time for our full moon tomorrow too!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi snigdha.s. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, glad you enjoyed the Hub. Never heard the one about the rabbit in the moon but I agree that it is very soothing to just sit back and admire the moon. Thanks again and have a great day.

    • snigdha.s profile image

      snigdha.s 5 years ago from India,mumbai

      This is a great Hub . There is something very soothing about the Moon. It has a calming effect. Just like when you listen to good music and you get lost,similar is the feeling while admiring the beauty of the Moon. As a kid had heard many stories about a rabbit in the moon and i keep picturing the rabbit.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks starstream, I appreciate the comments. I've been fascinated with the moon since I was a little kid also. I like the pen name, Any significance to it?

    • starstream profile image

      Dreamer at heart 5 years ago from Northern California

      I used to really enjoy seeing the moon through my telescope as a kid. It was so beautiful. I hope many readers try to take some photos. I voted your hub up.

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Steph and Happyboomernurse,

      Give it a try some evening. It's a great feeling when you finally get some good photos of the moon.

    • Happyboomernurse profile image

      Gail Sobotkin 5 years ago from South Carolina

      Great hub with lots of tips on how to photograph the moon.

      I was laughing when I saw the shots of the small and big white blobs because that's exactly how my attempts at photographing the moon turned out. At least now I know why they looked that way.

      It's cool that you gave specific instructions on how to get good shots with the proper equipment and settings.

      Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      I've tried moon shots so many times with few successes. Although I don't have an SLR, I do have a good zoom on my camera, and I think your instructions will help me to get better photographs next time I try. Thanks for a really useful hub! Voted up and shared!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks vasmenon. It is definitely a process of trial and error so keep at it. When you finally get it post some pictures. I appreciate the comments.

    • vasmenon profile image

      vasmenon 5 years ago from India

      Excellent description of the topic. I guess the moon is every photography enthusiast's obsession at some point or the other. My little digital camera was put to test often during the initial times that I got one, to take pictures of the moon, as you see it in Nat Geo and such places. I had a lot of those small and big blobs in my collection too!!! Your hub has inspired me to take up the challenge once again. Useful and voting up...Thank you

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Vinner,

      I appreciate the comments. I'm still pretty new at this but trying to make it work.

    • vinner profile image

      vinner 5 years ago from India

      cool article described in detail to the basics. Good work my friend. You have a good future in hubpages. Looking for more works from you

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thanks Lenzy, something a little different. It was a Hub that was on my radar for a few weeks and finally got around to it.

    • Lenzy profile image

      Lenzy 5 years ago from Arlington, Texas

      Hey, that was a really interesting hub on photographing the moon. It certainly isn't your average hub. My camera probably isn't really good enough right now to photograph the moon, but I may try it out anyway sometime. The suggestions will be great for the future. Lenzy

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank You. Appreciate the comments.

    • mooboomoo profile image

      mooboomoo 5 years ago from London

      Great hub, a must read for budding photographers.

    • bdegiulio profile image
      Author

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank You babithababa. It's something I just started experimenting with years ago as I have always had this fascination with the moon. You know the saying, practice makes perfect.

    • profile image

      babithababa 5 years ago

      Well researched .Congrats. The subject is rare also.Voted up!

    • bdegiulio profile image
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      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Thank you for the nice comments. No, I'm just a photography enthusiast who has been taking pictures for a long time. It's definitely one of my passions. There's been a lot of trial and error of the years but that's part of the fun of it.

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      Catherine Taylor 5 years ago from Canada

      Awesome hub! My oldest daughter has recently become enamoured with astrology and photography. We have a lot of little whit blob photos. Your tips were very useful! Educational as well. Do you teach photography?