New to Astrophotography? Here Is What You Need to Know

Astrophotography is a very unique and tricky genre, but if you take the time to dive into it and learn how it is done, you can be rewarded with stunning images of the heavens. If you are interested in astrophotography, this great beginner's guide will answer a lot of questions to help you get you on your way to pointing your camera toward the night sky.

Coming to you from Astro Backyard, this excellent video discusses many things you are probably wondering about if you are considering getting into astrophotography. The thing I have always admired about astrophotographers is the tremendous technical precision that goes into the work, both shooting and post-processing. It is a genre that takes a lot of very specialized equipment, shooting hours, and post-processing techniques, but at the same time, you will be able to produce images unlike those you see from any other type of photography. Even if you are not looking to dive into the deep end of the genre, it can be a great way to expand your landscape photography repertoire or even to spice up things like engagement portraits. Check out the video above for lots of helpful information. 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Good video. I have an interest in this, but, "It is a genre that takes a lot of very specialized equipment, shooting hours, and post-processing techniques". Maybe when I'm retired and have more time. However, I hope to put the information into my landscape photography efforts!

It's more easier that it seems... you only need a little skywatcher star adventurer (the cheaper motorised equatorial mount, but you have to take the full kit) and an intervallometer. the SA costs less than a lens.
the hardest part is post processing, but if you're used to photoshop, it will be easy.
I started photography because I wanted to shoot deep sky objects, I didn't know nothing, except a little in astronomy.
and i've managed to get some good pictures, if I can do it, everybody can...

Thanks! That's encouraging! As I replied to another poster here, I have too much light pollution here, so I'll have to wait until my next trip out west.

Oh, and since I'm an "amateur enthusiast" I haven't felt the need to fork out the $$ for Photoshop (yet). I'm trying GIMP and Darktable (slowly) and I am open to any other good, (free) programs.

Before even considering gear, as long as you have a tripod, just take your camera out to some decently dark skies and shoot with your kit lens set to wide. Turn your auto focus off and manually focus using live view magnified. Try 8-10 second exposures for starters at ISOs between 400-1600.

You can even use a pocket camera. This was the first astro shot I took, using a Canon G9X Mk II rested on top of a fence post. I set it manual focus to infinity and shot 8 seconds @ ISO 1600 using the self timer.

With a ltittle SA, a nikon D7000, an old nikkor 300mm ED IF F4.5, some post processing and not so much knowledge :

You're brave man to stick that rig on an SA. :-D. Came out great. How many subs?

225, 45secs each

I've got the same camera. I've gone the other direction with it and mainly done wide field shots. I still have a lot to learn with the post processing. I'm working to build a barn door tracker to attempt to track some shots this winter of Orion.

Wow! Nice!

Nice! That gives me some hope! I have so much light pollution here, I'll have to wait until my next trip out west :-(

You may have decent skies near you. Check out Light Pollution Map and see if there's at least Bortle Class 4 skies near you (that's the level skies I took my pocket camera shot in).

Click on the Atlas 2015 overlay, and when you click on a spot, it will show you the Bortle Class rating for that area (typically yellow and green areas on the overlay).

You can get decent shots straight out of your camera with halfway decent skies:

Pretty easy to go up to 200mm with the small equatorial trackers. Aside from the more expensive Fornax, I’ve found the ioptron to be best. Auto guiding is also relatively easy to learn. People don’t realize but calibrating data, stacking and post processing is half the battle. Takes a lot of practice and commitment to become adept...

70mm + 6Da pointing towards the center of our Milky Way Galaxy! It’s very rewarding when you bag a good one like that : )