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How To Photograph The Moon With A Digital SLR Camera

By Edited Aug 29, 2016 1 0

full moon

Learning how to photograph the moon and doing it just once can save you a lot of time and energy in the long run; you should always keep a good shot in your stock photos for regular use. Have you ever seen those beautiful pictures that have a fantastic night time cityscape along with a beautiful full moon? What makes those types of shots so popular is that both the city and the moon are sharp and detailed in appearance. Many people don’t know that a lot of these photos are made up of two different pictures taken by a digital SLR camera and combined in a program like Photoshop to produce one outstanding shot.

It is very hard, if not impossible in photography, to get a detailed shot of the moon in the background of a nighttime city skyline without the moon looking like a large blob of light. This is because each subject in your photo takes different exposure times. The moon requires a short exposure because it is so bright, while the skyline often requires a longer exposure because it is not as bright. There are some digital cameras out there that let you take double exposures, but it will be just as easy to take two separate photos. Add in the extra benefit of always having a quality shot of the moon to use whenever you need it and there is really no question as to whether to take those two shots.

Shooting the Moon

For the best results use the longest zoom lens you have (at least a 200 mm) to get this shot. Don’t forget to also use your tripod as the less shake you have the sharper your shot will be. Switch to manual mode on your digital SLR, set your aperture to f/11 and the shutter speed to 1/250 of a second. Now zoom in as close as you can on the moon so that all you see in your shot is black sky and the moon (no clouds, buildings, etc.), then take the shot. Now all you have to do is open it in Photoshop and either crop out most of the darkness or cut out the moon entirely and you will have a very useful stock photo.

Bonus – Shooting the City Skyline

A wide angle lens such as an 18 – 24 mm will be useful for this shot and using a tripod will be mandatory. Using the timer function or a shutter release cable would also reduce camera shake. Set your camera to aperture priority mode and choose f/11 as your f-stop. The camera will now choose an appropriate shutter speed. Exposure could take as little as 25 seconds or as long as several minutes depending on how light or dark the city is.

Combining the Photos

After moving the moon photo into your skyline photo change the moon layer’s blend mode from Normal to Lighten; this will hide the dark square. The key is to make sure you place the moon photo over a picture with a dark sky. Now all you have to do is adjust the size and position to your liking.

Cheap stock photos (or even free ones) can readily be found over the internet, but wouldn't it be more fun and educational to get the shot yourself? You can do it.

Moon Photo by Luc Viatour

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