Tips on photographing the moon
Shooting the moon is not easy, but once you've mastered the technique you can improve or transform all kinds of shots using the moon as an element. You'll need a zoom lens, the more powerful the better.
See the related article How to photograph the lunar eclipse
I would be very grateful for some advice please regarding taking photos of the moon. I don't currently own a digital camera and so am using a canon EOS 33 film camera. I have tried to take some shots of the moon in the past and have found that they are not as clear or as 'bright' looking as those spectacular shots you have on your website.
I know that I could use a greater ISO film but those films are likely to give a grainier picture. Is there an chance you may be able to offer a little advice as to where I may be going wrong. The pictures you took look very clear and the detail in the moon is amazing. Could I be going wrong in terms of the shutter speed? Should I try a much slower shutter speed?
Obviously, as I am using a film camera, I am unable to view each picture until the whole film is developed; therefore, is there a method or strategy I could use to take a series of shots so that hopefully at least one or two would come out clear, crisp and bright with 'fingers crossed,' some detail?
One final thing - how do you know if you have taken a good moon shot when you see the photos? For example, how bright is too bright for a moon shot to look 'wrong'?
Thank you in advance for your time
No problem, that's what I am here for, to provide information!
The optimum brightness of a photo depends on how much detail you can see. If patches of the moon start to turn to a pure white and you can't see any features, then the photo is too bright. If the darker areas are so dark that the details are becoming invisible, then it is too dark. The moon should look the same as when you look at it with your eyes. Your eyes readjust whenever you focus on the moon so that the details appear. That should be the same with a photograph.
The optimum exposure is not what you might think! The confusing thing is that because it is night time you would assume that principles of night photography apply, such as using a very long exposure, a wide aperture and/or fast film.
But the surface of the moon at night is as bright as any object lit by daylight. What we are seeing is the sun reflecting off the moon's surface, the same as the light reflected off a rock on the ground in bright sunshine.
So when I set the camera to photograph the full disk of the moon, I found use a shutter speed was like 1/4 of a second and the f stop was 32. That was at ISO 200. That would be equivalent to 1/60 at 5.6, similar to shooting in daylight.
So that is the optimum exposure, but you must bracket, ideally up to two stops darker and two stops lighter, five photos for each shot.
I would recommend shooting a test roll of film first, carefully noting the exposures and which one is best. Examine the negative under a lupe and select which exposure is best, i.e. so that the surface of the moon is not quite dark, but there is some detail visible.
As with all matters to do with photography, the best way to achieve success is through a process of trial and error and testing, noting down values as you go along, evaluating what works best, then shooting again using the informaiton you have gained.
The best person to help you discover the secrets of photography is yourself!
Written by Aidan O'Rourke