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How to Take a Picture of the Moon

Updated on April 10, 2011
Even though the moon looks beautiful to your eye, did you come up with a picture of a white dot?
Even though the moon looks beautiful to your eye, did you come up with a picture of a white dot? | Source
Shutter speed is too fast, resulting in a bright white circle of light.
Shutter speed is too fast, resulting in a bright white circle of light. | Source
A slight shake is all it takes to give the moon an uneven shape in photographs.
A slight shake is all it takes to give the moon an uneven shape in photographs. | Source
A better picture of a full moon.  Taken at ISO 3400, using a Canon Rebel t2i and zoom lens set on 300mm.
A better picture of a full moon. Taken at ISO 3400, using a Canon Rebel t2i and zoom lens set on 300mm. | Source
Moon appears bright with the ISO set at 6400, Canon Rebel t2i and zoom lense set on 300mm.
Moon appears bright with the ISO set at 6400, Canon Rebel t2i and zoom lense set on 300mm. | Source
a crescent moon
a crescent moon | Source

How to Take a Picture of the Moon

Taking a picture of the moon is not as easy as it first seems. Although it may look beautiful to your eye, what you capture on your camera requires finesse, patience and a little bit of technical knowledge.

If you are trying to get a good picture of the moon with your cell phone camera or a "point and shoot", you will get little more than a white blob of light. It may be the biggest, brightest supermoon that you have ever seen and it will look fine through your viewfinder, but a basic camera such as a cell phone camera does not have the ability to pick up the details you are trying to capture.

Zooming in will do nothing but give you a bigger, brighter blob as you can see from the picture of the moon to the right.

To get a clear picture of the moon you have to keep the camera still. Set it up on a tripod AND use a timer. Even the shake from pressing the button while sitting on a tripod can make your picture of the moon appear blurry or oval.

Set the timer and take a step back. Consider movement from wind too.

Now, with the camera ready and steady to take a moon picture, set the zoom lens (sorry, but the zoom lens is important) to 300mm. An inexpensive 70-300mm zoom lens will work fine. Set the focus on infinity. Press down halfway on the shutter to see what the camera sees. Take a picture and see what you get.

I set the ISO to 3200 on the picture of the moon on the right and felt that it was too dark so I reset the ISO to 6400 and got a brighter, clearer picture of the moon.

Weather conditions are also important to consider. If there are clouds passing by the moon, you will likely pick them up in your picture as they move across the sky, making your photograph look blurry. Humidity may fog your lens. A clear, calm night is best for taking pictures of the moon.

Try taking pictures of a half moon too and you might find that you enjoy these pictures more. My pictures of the moon aren't going to win any awards and aren't as clear as those found in science magazines, but with a basic level digital camera you can do some pretty neat things.

Here's a recent picture of a crescent moon, taken at F14, ISO 6400, 300mm lens focused on infinity, tripod used.  Slow shutter speed.

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