Shooting the Moon

Put your rockets away, I mean using your DSLR to get great shots of the moon.

On Gab recently I was asked how I repeatedly take great sharp shots of the moon, which made me stop an think that a descriptive post here would be useful for others who want to achieve the same.

The gear you will need.

Hopefully you will have if not all then most of this list but if you do not already own one, you will need to make an investment in a suitable lens and there is no way around that I’m afraid.

  1. A DSLR camera. Any reasonably modern DSLR will do say 12mp upwards. One with IBIS will help tremendously in getting a handheld shot of the moon. If yours does not then you will NEED a tripod.
  2. Lens. 200mm and upwards is what I recommend. 400mm being a sensible size which still allows for a good cropped image size to post online. This you might need to buy if you do not already own one.
  3. A clear night sky. I am awake most mornings at 3am so for me I tend to get the moon high in the sky or starting its path back to bed. A clear night, ie little or no cloud, will allow the sharpest shots of the moon, but do not get disheartened if it is cloudy which I will go into later.

My personal setup is Canon R6 + RF 800mm lens. Both have stabilization and I take my shots handheld. I also have the EF 100-400 II and the EF 70-200 II with RF adapter for cloudy nights discussed later.

Camera settings.

First put your camera into manual settings and check that any image stabilization you have on the lens and body are switched on if you like me are going to get your moon shot via hand holding. If you are using a tripod then test with stabilization on or off if your lens has it to see what works for you.

Sometimes having stabilization on whilst your camera is on a tripod can cause issues with image sharpness. Counterintuitive I know but there you are, yet one of many odd things in photography we have to contend with.

Set your aperture to f/11. Remember you will be pointing your lens at natures headlight, so stopping down the lens, again counter intuitive for night shots where we normally want to fit and open the widest aperture lens we have, reduces the powerful light beam and reveals the moons textures.

Now for Shutter speed and ISO.

If like me you have gear with stabalisation in bothe lens and body try the settings in this sceenshot of the settings I used this morning, 21st Feb 2022, to take the featured image.

Notice I was able to use ISO 100 for the cleanest possible file. I was also able to shot it at 1/250th due to the IBIS and lens stabilization. Spot metering seems for me to be the most reliable setting for moon shots to.

If you do not have stabilization and are using a tripod, try the settings I use here but if you get shaky shots, up the shutter speed and ISO until you see sharp images.

NOTE: Remember the screen on your camera body is normally rubbish in comparison with your laptop or computer screen, so if you can view images on your computer that will give you a better way to judge your image. Tethering your camera would be great if you can.

After a while you will get used to knowing how a shot looks on the camera and how it will translate to your computer, so just give it time for that skill to develop.

Try settings like these and see what you get.

  1. F/11 ISO 400 1/400th speed
  2. F/11 ISO 800 1/800th speed
  3. F/11 ISO 1600 1/1000 + speed. At this point you could try hand held as these settings should cover hand shake but give it a try to see what works for you.

Tripod users: The Moon is a moving target, a slow moving target but move it will, so be ready to adjust your composition often.

Ok but its Cloudy Dave, now what ?

This is where you get creative.

Still keep your main target as the moon but watch how the light of the moon lights the back of the clouds dancing in front of it.

Look and see the colours being given, especially if you get a moon that is visible as the night turns to day.

Try various lenses if you have them and play with the basic settings from earlier. After a while you will find what suits you and will be able to take shots like this I took earlier in Feb 2022.

Practice will get you there.

Shoot the moon
Shoot the moon

Like anything in life, especially the creative arts, practice and making “mistakes” will eventually get you taking shots like mine, of which I hope the insights here will help you on your way to Shooting the Moon successfully.

Note on editing.

The shots here have had minimal editing in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Mainly I lift the Highlights and Shadows to make the JPEG image look better on computer screens and add my “dave” border but that’s it. Just select the sharpest image from your session and process that one until you like it. The idea is to leave the sharpening tools alone as you should of taken at least one image that is sharp after reading this post.

I hope that has been of use to you and I wish you every success as you go onwards and Shoot for the Moon .

I wish you well

DC x