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Taking Pictures of the Moon

The Moon is beautiful to the naked eye, but it can be tricky to capture with a camera.

Silhouette of two photographers looking at the Full Moon.

Full Moon photos need planning.

A bright Full Moon can be tricky to capture without specialized equipment.


Planning Your Moon Picture

Whether you have a smartphone or a more advanced camera, planning is the key to a successful shot.

  • Find the moonrise and moonset times. If you use a compass to angle your camera, make sure to take into account magnetic declination.
  • Moonrise and moonset are great times for spectacular Moon photos. The Moon is just above the horizon, so you can add mountains, buildings, or other surroundings to your picture. Around the Full Moon, the Moon usually rises and sets during the golden hour, when colors are particularly rich.
  • Check the weather! A cloudy sky may cover the Moon, though a few clouds add drama.
  • The Full Moon is very bright, especially if it is a Supermoon. Other Moon phases may be simpler to shoot.
  • Scout your location. Lakes, the ocean, windows, and buildings reflect light and add extra oomph to your picture.

Using a Smartphone or Compact Camera

Smartphones and small compact cameras have a wide lens and a small sensor, so the Moon might come out looking like a blurry dot of light in the sky. Most mobile cameras also don't have a very powerful zoom, which you need to capture the surface details of the Moon. However, there are ways you can play to the strengths of your cell phone:

  • Compose your image. Make use of the scenery around you by including trees, buildings, or reflections.
  • Turn off the flash. The flash will disturb the natural light.
  • Use ambient light. Capture different light sources. For example, during the blue hour, light from buildings give a warm glow complementing the moonlight.

DSLR Cameras

In order to make the Moon the focal point of the image and to capture the surface details, you'll need a DSLR or another camera with a zoom equivalent of 200 mm or above.

Illustration image
Zoom in to capture surface details.
In order to capture the Moon's surface details, you need a strong zoom.
  • Stabilize. Put your camera on a tripod or another stable surface like a fence or the ground. Use your timer, a shutter with a cord, or a remote to minimize camera movement.
  • Use a low ISO. Keep your ISO setting between 100 to 200 as the Full Moon is bright.
  • Manual exposure. Underexpose rather than overexpose the Moon. A medium aperture of f/5.6 to 11 works well.
  • Flash highlights. A flash can be used to light up your subject. Set the exposure for the Moon and sky.
  • High resolution. To capture as much information and detail as possible, set your camera to the highest resolution (jpeg) or take uncompressed images (tiff or raw).
  • Keep shooting! Play around with different apertures and shutter speeds, and you might just get that perfect shot.
  • Edit your images. You can also crop, add contrast, tweak colors, layer, and so much more, by processing your images using photo processing software.

Topics: Astronomy, Moon


Sun & Moon Photography

  1. Taking Pictures of the Sun
  2. Taking Pictures of the Moon
  3. Solar Eclipse Photography
  4. Lunar Eclipse Photography

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Eclipse Photography

  1. Taking Pictures of a Solar Eclipse
  2. Taking Pictures of a Lunar Eclipse
  3. Gallery: Total Solar Eclipse July, 2019
  4. Gallery: Total Lunar Eclipse Jan, 2019
  5. Gallery: Total Lunar Eclipse July, 2018
  6. Gallery: Total Lunar Eclipse Jan, 2018
  7. Gallery: Total Solar Eclipse 2017
  8. Gallery: Partial Lunar Eclipse 2017
  9. Gallery: Annular Solar Eclipse 2016
  10. Gallery: Mercury Transit 2016
  11. Gallery: Total Solar Eclipse 2016
  12. Gallery: Total Lunar Eclipse 2015

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