3 Ways To Photograph the Moon, From Start To Finish

Capturing the moon has been something photographers have tried since it was possible to do. However, it's trickier than most people think, particularly to capture real contrast and detail.

Astrophotography is a passion I seldom ever get to indulge in. I live a stone's throw away from London and wedged between Cambridge, so light pollution is invasive and annoying. I have a few dark spots within a couple of hours' drive, but those dark spots are dark relative to their surroundings, not globally. So, while I love it and gleefully head out into the night when I am abroad or in the far reaches of the U.K., I shoot precious few images per year. One aspect of astrophotography — which is somewhere between astro and landscape — that I could potentially pull off where I live, is photographing the Moon.

Capturing the moon is something that has a number of different ways to success. You can photograph it at night, preferably during one of the phases that isn't full, or like Brent Hall does in this video, you can photograph it in the early morning or evening. Hall is far more experienced than I am about astrophotography, so I will let him do the explaining. One tip I would offer, however, is full moons aren't your best bet, as mentioned above, as they create a lot of glare, and they're often not the most interesting either. So experiment with different phases.

What's the best image of the moon you've captured?

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Jerome Brill's picture

I think people rely on stacking a little too much with moon shots. He's also out in the desert on a hot day taking these photos. That heat is affecting every shot in many ways. Not the best example. Taking the photos on a much cooler day would have been better. Not to mention he said it was windy. He did try to take the shots when the wind stopped but I don't think that's enough. I also noticed "and I've made this mistake many times myself" he extends the top part of his tripod. In the context of needing the sharpest most stable images, you don't extend that. That creates instability, even if it's the smallest amount. And you're just taking moon shots, extending it is only for your comfort and not any benefit to the images. Lasty, he didn't use a timer or button. If you add all of those, your single shots will come out a lot better. Less stacking or even no stacking at all. I went back to find one I did what was just a single image. I took all these steps into account and this was my result. This is only at 1/160, ISO 320, 400mm. +5 Texture, Sharp 58 with only 2 Mask. It's an older image so I could rework the color fringing but just think if I had 50 of these stacked? So yeah, stacking will be better but I think to get the best results you have to try to get the best single images you can first. Stacking isn't going to make up for it. I'm sure some of you have even better examples of some single moon shots.

Troy Straub's picture

Great work!

Joshua Gow's picture

I would have to agree with Jerome's comment. The technique and conditions definitely seemed to be affecting the image. In better conditions this may yield more impressive results but this seems like a heck of a lot of processing to get a marginally better image. For example my shot below is a single image on a 400mm lens on my GH5, giving the same 800mm focal length as the setup in the video. I cropped the image to 100% and added some contrast and sharpening. This was shot on a very still, very cool evening last week in the UK. I live about 10 miles from a pretty large city so we don't get the darkest of skies but I'm happy with how this image came out.