The moon composited into an image of the Texas State Capitol. 

The moon composited into an image of the Texas State Capitol. 

How to Photograph the moon 

On November 14, 2016 the moon will be at its closest point to Earth since 1948. This will cause the moon to appear bigger and brighter than it typically does. 

Photographers of any skill level can capture the moon. It just takes some planning and the proper equipment. You can find out what time the moon rises and sets near your location here

Suggested Equipment to Photograph the Moon

Camera
A DSLR or mirrorless camera will give you the best results. 

Telephoto Lens
To get a large and defined moon in your frame, you will need a long telephoto lens. If you're shooting with a full frame sensor, I suggest a minimum of 400mm. If shooting on a crop sensor, I suggest a minimum of 250mm. 

Tripod
A tripod will help you achieve better results by giving you a secure base to adjust focus and settings. 

Remote
While not necessarily essential, it will help you avoid camera shake. Alternatively, you can use your camera's self timer function. 

Setting Up to Shoot the Moon

There are several different scenarios in which you could find yourself photographing the moon. Regardless of which, I suggest you follow these steps. 

While the moon can be shot handheld, I suggest using a tripod to eliminate any potential camera shake.

Compose your shot. 

Use manual focus. Turn on the camera's live view then zoom in on the moon on the preview screen with the zoom button (don't confuse this with using the lens to zoom).

Be sure to have image stabilization for your lens turned off, as this simply creates a vibration to counteract any potential camera shake (on a tripod there should be no shake, so this creates unnecessary vibration).

Image softness could also be caused by the DSLR's mirror movement. This vibration can be eliminated by turning on Mirror Lockup Mode (Canon) or Mirror Up Mode (Nikon). Consult your manual for details.

Shoot in manual exposure mode. If the moon turns is too dark, adjust to a slower shutter speed. If the moon appears to be too bright, adjust to a faster shutter speed. 

ISO: 200
Aperture: f/7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/500th
Using a Canon T3i and a Canon 55mm-250mm EF-S Lens at 250mm

Photographing the moon with details

Since the moon is lit by the sun, proper exposure will be close to your daytime settings for a scene on Earth. In this telephoto image of the moon, we see the craters clearly visible. 

The greater your lens focal length, the larger the moon will appear in your frame, enabling you to see more details in the craters.

 


Photographing night Scenes including the Moon

Exposing for a night scene including the moon can be more difficult. Since our scene here on earth is in the dark of night and proper exposure for the moon itself will be daytime settings, it is impossible to properly expose both without diving into the realm of artificial lighting. There are two ways you can deal with this.

  1. Let the moon blow out and appear as a white dot.
  2. Bracket your images to get proper exposure on both the moon and your foreground, then blend the images together in post. 
ISO: 160 Aperture: f/6.3 Shutter Speed: 13 seconds Using a Canon 6D with a 16-35mm f/2.8 L series Lens at 16mm. 

ISO: 160
Aperture: f/6.3
Shutter Speed: 13 seconds
Using a Canon 6D with a 16-35mm f/2.8 L series Lens at 16mm. 

ISO: 800
Aperture: f/7.1
Shutter Speed: 20 seconds (foreground) 1/1000th second (moon)
Using a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 24-105 L series lens at 105mm. The moon was enlarged slightly in post. 

 

ISO: 800
Aperture: f/7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/640th
Using a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 24-105 L series lens at 105mm. 


Photographing Daylight Scenes Containing the Moon


This is the simplest scenario to photograph the moon because the moon and scene are both being lit by the sun. This enables you to capture details of the moon while having a properly exposed foreground with the same settings. 

I still suggest using a tripod and live view focusing techniques in this scenario as it will assure you sharp focus.