February 2013
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How to take great photos of the moon – Part 3

Read the previous post (Taking great moon photos – Part 2)

Tip 1091 (Framing the room with buildings and the like): You would have seen some great moon shots, with focusing on only the moon in the composition of the photo. However, if you see photos of the moon, people have taken some great shots of the moon along with objects in the frame, such as buildings or trees, or other large structures, where the positioning of the moon along with the building also seems like art. However, taking such photos in the dead of night is difficult, because the moon is high in the sky and light levels are pretty low (in fact, the light differences between the moon and buildings / trees is so high that there would almost be no detail visible of these structures). It is far easier to take such photos when the time is early in the morning or in the evening, when the moon has not yet risen high in the sky, and when there is some ambient light available in the sky to get a good photo.

Tip 1092 (Use manual focusing and set to infinity): For cameras that you can set to manual focusing, set the focusing to be such. Cameras typically have a hard time locking accurately onto objects where the light conditions are not very good (you can see that very easily when you try to shoot objects at night), and you should use manual focus to get more control (if you have not used manual focus or are terrified of getting your focus incorrect when using the manual focus – then use the manual focus a number of times before the actual moon shot so that you are fairly sure you are comfortable using the manual focus). On some more modern cameras such as Nikon D300, there is a setting called “Live View with Contrast Defect”, and this setting has been found to help get focus lock on distant objects. If not, and your camera lets you set focus to infinity, then set the focus mode to manual and set it to infinity, and then review the shot images to see whether the photos you are getting have a sharp focus.

Tip 1093 (Bracket your shots): What does bracket actually mean ? Well, since I normally aim to explain to people who are not really into the exact meaning of a technical term, bracketing a photo means shooting with slightly varied exposures. For example, if you have a shot with aperture of 5.6 and shutter speed of 1/125, then for bracketing, you would take shots with a slightly bigger or smaller aperture, or shoot with an increased or decreased shutter speed (one level below and one level above). Suppose you had got exposure settings for a moon shot, but a moon setting varies from day to day, even at different times of the night, so it is extremely important that you experiment with different exposure settings. Keep in mind that when you shoot moon photos, viewing the resultant images on the LCD is not the best parameter for determining whether the image is perfect or not (the LCD view can allow you to decide whether a photo is to be rejected or not, but not whether it is perfect or less than perfect).

Tip 1094 (Set ISO appropriately): Keep in mind that ISO settings come with benefits, but also with problems as well. When there is not enough light to shoot at lower ISO’s (and you cannot reduce shutter speeds because of not using a tripod, and with the attendant camera shake), you will need to increase the ISO to get enough light. However, with higher ISO’s come the problems of increased noise in the photo, and at night time, this increase in ISO can be visible in the photo (the only variable is that the increase in noise is not discernible when you have a better camera – the better SLR’s do not show noise even at ISO levels such as 3200). However, when you are using a tripod, then you can afford to have much slower shutter speeds ( >1 second), without worrying that your image will be shaken.

Tip 1095 (More pixels is better): Does it matter if you are using a camera with a higher mega-pixel count rather than a lower mega-pixel count ? Well, it actually does, because when you are shooting the moon, the moon actually fills up only a small portion of the actual shot (unless you are using some extra long zooms); if you want to show more of the moon in your photo, then you will need to crop out large sections of the photo. If you were shooting with a small mega-pixel camera to start with, then you will have a pretty small photo left after you have completed the cropping. This gets better when you shoot with a large mega-pixel camera (consider getting this 36 MP wonder – Nikon D800 or this 24 MP wonder – Nikon D600) since you can crop a lot and get a great photo.

Some great books and a filter (from Amazon):

The Digital Photography Book Night and Low-Light Photography Photo Workshop 1.25″ Orion 13% Transmission Moon Filter

Videos from Youtube on shooting the moon:

Shooting the moon Part 1

Shooting the moon part 2

How to Photograph the Moon, tutorial for video and still images

How to photograph the moon?

Read the next post in this series (Shooting great photos of the moon – Part 4)

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