Did you know that you don't need to be a professional or spend a fortune to portray the night sky? It is true that DSLRte cameras guarantee optimal results, but you also do not need expensive equipment, because even with some phones you can do astrophotography. Regardless of the camera you are using, if you want to learn how to photograph the Moon and other wonders of the sky, check out this tutorial.
Step 1: get the equipment
Photographing stars does not require the $ 5,000 equipment that NASA occupies, but there are some essential elements, starting with a tripod. The accessory stabilizes the camera to avoid a blurred image during a long exposure shot. Even a small table trpode can help you, although a full-size model offers you more flexibility.
While the camera is not the most important part of the equation, those equipped with larger sensors will be more capable. Full-frame cameras are known for their high signal / noise ratio and excellent low light performance.
There are even cameras designed specifically for astrophotography. Its lens also plays an important role, with large apertures that retain more light for better performance: the Nikon Z 58mm Noct lens of $ 8,000 dollars, with its huge f / 0.95 aperture, is designed for such purposes. But a basic DSRL with a lens kit can also work.
Since you are working in the dark, make sure you have the phone charged or have an LED flashlight. It is also essential to be familiar with the camera controls before leaving. The remote control is useful, but not essential. Most modern cameras can also be controlled from an app.
Step 2: attention to time
Maybe it goes without saying, but you can't catch the stars with cloudy skies. However, one less obvious thing to consider is the phase of the Moon. When it is full, its light dulls the glare of the stars. For best results, take your photos during the new moon or simply shoot in the opposite direction of the satellite to capture the darkest part of the sky.
If you want to portray a specific point in the universe, you also need to plan to know where the stars are at a given time. This is not necessary if you have a good view in all directions: in fact, the images that graph this article were the result of shooting as a test in search of the highest concentration of stars. If you dream of a perfect alignment of the Milky Way, you should download an application like PhotoPills.
Step 3: get out of the city
Pollution of populated areas wreaks havoc when photographing stars. In densely populated cities, you may not be able to see the stars at night, which means your camera doesn't either. Even if you are in rural areas, be careful with things like street lighting, because if you are too much the light it projects can ruin your photo.
The next image is an example of polluting pollution that affects the visibility of the stars along the horizon.
one from two
Step 4: look at the environment
Including the landscape with the sky in the background is another good advice, as it creates a feeling of how vast the sky is. Explore your location in search of elements: from a tree in the foreground to a distant mountain will give the photo a plus.
There are two different ways of incorporating the landscape: adding it to the socket or using a flashlight or other continuous light source to illuminate something in the foreground. This is a creative option and maybe you can complement it if you are looking to photograph the Moon.
Step 5: adjust your equipment
First, if your camera can take images in RAW format, make sure you are doing it. A RAW file will be much easier to work compared to a JPEG. If you have not been familiar with the manual setup and the exposure triangle, it is a good time to learn about concepts such as aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
The photograph of the night sky is of long exposure, but only to a certain extent. As the Earth rotates and the stars move, too long a time will make them blur. To freeze them as points of light, keep the shutter speed in no more than 20 seconds. Use a wide aperture to allow as much light as possible to enter, then increase the ISO only to the extent necessary. This will probably be in the range of ISO 1,600 to ISO 6,400, depending on the lens.
To capture details of the Milky Way, keep the shutter speed at or below the 20 second mark. If you exceed the figure, you will get an unfocused image.
One option is to photograph the steles, blurring the stars to see the path they draw in the sky. If you think 20 seconds was a lot, try to wait 20 minutes. The longer the exposure time, the better. It can work with 15 minutes, but if you really want something good, set the camera to ?bulb? mode and leave the shutter open for a couple of hours. It is useful to have a remote control for this, otherwise, you must physically press and hold the shutter button. Consider that some entry level cameras may not have this function.
Another alternative is to combine short exposures to create the effect of star trails. This is an option even if you don't have the bulb mode, but require work in Photoshop or another image editing program.
Step 6: focus
For best results, set the camera to manual focus. The stars are far away and that favors this formula. Start by turning the focus dial to infinity, then adjust from there. On a mirrorless camera or a DSLR in live view mode, you can enlarge the preview image as you focus. The maximum approach can also be useful, so if your camera offers that function, find and experiment. You can also take some test photos using a higher ISO and faster shutter speed and review them, to finally reset the ISO and shutter speed.
Step 7: self-timer or remote control
Touch the camera during any prolonged exposure, shake it, even with a tripod. If you set all the parameters, shoot with the hands-free option. If you have a remote control or a camera enabled with Wi-Fi, do it through the app. If not, you can use the timer to delay taking a couple of seconds, enough time to remove your hands.
Step 8: check and adjust
Once this prolonged exposure is finished, check the shot on the LCD screen before moving on to the next one. Make sure the focus is clear when you zoom in on the capture. If the image is too dark, reduce the shutter speed or increase the ISO. Check the composition for possible improvements: the practice will take you to the teacher.
Step 9: edition
Now that you learned how to photograph the Moon and the stars, you should know that any great image of the night sky required much later work. What the camera captures tends to be much more boring than we want and that is where the edition comes in. There are many applications to do so, but the best RAW processors for desktop computers are Adobe Lightroom, Capture One and Skylum Luminar.
Start by adjusting the exposure to make the stars brighter, but don't overdo it. White balance can also be useful. You may want to see the sky more blue, or even purple, more than black or gray, and white balance is the easiest way to get it.
Contrast also helps to highlight stars more, but instead of just using the contrast slider, individually adjust reflections, whites, shadows and blacks. In general, increase reflections while decreasing shadows.
For the Milky Way, the clarity and vibration settings can help remove gas and dust, while the localized white balance settings can change their color so that it stands out more from the rest of the night sky.
Experienced astrophotographers always eliminate airplanes and satellites from their images. I saw them as rays of light that cross the sky, unlike the circular traces of the stars. It takes a lot of time to erase them, using a brush or a cloning tool.