Introduction: How to Photograph the MOON

Picture of How to Photograph the MOON

The moon is the most beautiful object in the night sky and makes the otherwise boring night sky look more interesting! we've all tried to photograph it and failed miserably.

This is a simple guide to photographing the moon using a DSLR or a point and shoot camera and will help you better your photography skills!

Step 1: Requirements

Picture of Requirements

1. Camera. A DSLR would be preferable because of higher quality photographs taken by it.

2. Zoom lens. the bigger the zoom the better it is.

3. Tripod. this helps us take sturdy and solid photos and avoids even minimal blur.

4. Remote trigger (optional).

Step 2: Setup

Camera - the camera I use is Canon's entry level basic DSLR called the canon 1200D. Any DSLR will do as long as you know how to operate it. You can even use point-and-shoot cameras but obviously the quality will be lower.

Lens - a zoom lens is with a zoom of minimum 200mm is needed. I've used a 55-250mm zoom lens which does the job pretty well. this is a kit lens that came with the camera bundle when i bought it. The bigger the zoom the better your photos will be.

Tripod - this is a definite necessity. a sturdy tripod is needed to prevent any shake. even a small blur can have a huge impact when photographing something like the moon. If you're not able to find a tripod then rest your camera on a rock or a ledge and make sure it's secure and stable.

Shutter Release - this will again help you prevent shake but it's not a necessity. I managed to produce the exact same photos by putting a timer on before taking my photos.

Step 3: Camera Settings

Picture of Camera Settings

  • First, put your camera in the MANUAL MODE.
    This is represented as an 'M' on Canon cameras.

The Triad (ISO, shutter speed, Aperture)

  • ISO- start with an ISO of 100 for test shots. increase it to 200 then to 400. normally you wouldn't require a higher ISO.
  • APERTURE- use between f/8 to f/11. try whatever works for you.
  • SHUTTER SPEED- start between 1/125 and play with it till you get it right. most of my photos have a shutter speed of 1/325.
  • FOCUS- I prefer autofocus itself while photographing the moon. but if you're confident enough, you can set it to manual focus and focus it to infinity.
    Also, use Spot metering on your camera.

Step 4: Starting Out

First, choose a day which will have a FULL MOON.
moon photographs come out best on full moon days. You can search online for days on which you'll see a full moon. A lunar cycle is about a month. Plan it accordingly.

Location - choose a place that has relatively less light pollution for crisper photos.

Weather - You will need a clear sky to photograph the moon. even a thin layer of clouds makes the photo hazy and will be undesirable.

Time - if you want the size of the moon to be bigger, take the photo when the moon is just on the horizon. However, if you want sharper and more detailed photos, take them when the moon is higher up in the sky.

Step 5: Taking the Photos!

Picture of Taking the Photos!

Let's start taking photos now!

  • Point the camera at the moon and fix your tripod. also activate the live view feature on your camera so that you are able to see a live image of the moon on your screen.
  • Zoom as much as possible towards the moon.
  • Now, using the shutter release cable or a timer on your camera take as many photographs as possible.
    Keep playing around with the ISO, Shutter speed and aperture till you get the best looking photos.
  • Use the digital zoom on your camera to zoom in on the moon to check for any blurring. and then continue to take more photographs!
  • After you get your desired photo, transfer it to your computer and crop it to it's size.
    now you can either leave it at that or do post processing.

Step 6: Blurring and Exposure Problems

Picture of Blurring and Exposure Problems

I've attached examples of photos that are Blurred (because of camera shake and vibration shake) and photos underexposed and overexposed.
This can be prevented by practice and taking more and more photos. underexposure is always better than overexposure because the brightness and contrast can be increased in post processing.

Step 7: Post Processing

Most of the times, a moon photograph comes out pretty good by itself if all the steps are followed. But if you feel there is a need to enhance the photo then you can do the following in Photoshop -

Open Adjustment and under it Curves and select “Medium Contrast” Preset from drop-down menu and click on “OK”.

Then, click on Filter, then Sharpen and then Unsharp Mask and add 150% in “Amount” field, while keeping the “Radius” on 1.0 pixels and “Threshold” at 0 level.

This will help you improve your photo even further!

Step 8: How to Do It Using a Point-and-shoot Camera

Picture of How to Do It Using a Point-and-shoot Camera

Just because you don't have a DSLR, it shouldn't stop you at all!
these instructions are only for Sony point and shoot cameras.

Go to 'Camera Mode' and select 'P' that is Program Auto mode. Set the White balance to 'Auto' and set the metering to 'Spot Metering'. now point your camera towards the moon and zoom in as much as possible. now zoom out a little bit (you can crop and enlarge the photo later) and click the photo. Obviously the photo quality will not be as good as a DSLR but it'll still be pretty good.

Step 9: Practice Practice Practice!

Picture of Practice Practice Practice!

The more you practice the better your photographs will get.Once you're able to perfectly Photograph the full moon, then you can even photograph the moon during it's various phases of waxing and waning.

Here is my best photo of the moon and I've also attached the photo details with it.

do post your photo of the moon when you try it out! :)

Also, If you like this instructable then please do vote for it in the 'Photography Contest'.


Dwargh (author)2017-07-13

Nice i'ble. Maybe I'm gonna try it at the next weekend. :)

As far as I know, the amount of ISO depends on the model of the DSLR your are using. Must be handled individually.

A good rule of thumb:
ISO 100-200 - Daylight, shining sun, bright rooms/halls
ISO 400-800 - Cloudy skys, early evenings
ISO >800 - At night, dark indoor

PiotrM7 made it! (author)2017-04-18

Good instructable. DSLR give good results, but You can use cheap camera. In my opinion most important is weather. Clouds, vibrating air after hot day, pollutions above factory, its big problem during night photo. My photos were taken Fujifilm FinePix HS10 camera, and postprocesing only IrfanView. Because my tripopd is as cheap as camera, usually i make night photo using selftimer. You have my vote.

advaym (author)PiotrM72017-04-19

Your photos are brilliant!
especially the one with the crescent moon, the craters look so beautful!


PiotrM7 (author)advaym2017-04-20

Thank You

ThirdEarthDesign (author)PiotrM72017-05-16

Yupp that is a great photo!

Philbert D (author)2017-04-16

Good info, especially the shutter speed/aperture.

One comment - on several occasions, you mention something to the effect that a DSLR will somehow automatically take better quality pictures than other types of cameras. If you were meaning that a 100% automatic camera would have limitations due to its lack of settings, that's applicable. If, on the other hand, you're trying to say that the something about a DSLR's imaging capability is inherently superior to other types of cameras, that's unsubstantiated. A high end adjustable "point and shoot" with a good, name brand lens system will produce higher quality images than an inexpensive DSLR. A DSLR is desirable for a number of reasons, but absolute optical quality is not necessarily one of them.

advaym (author)Philbert D2017-04-16

I basically meant that on a DSLR it is possible to control all setting of the camera and change them to suit our purpose!
and yes i do agree that a super high end point and shoot can at times produce better images than a low end DSLR.

pudtiny (author)advaym2017-04-22

Nice instructable. I use a bridge camera all the control, longer zoom but non of the weight of a DSLR. I have often found the Manual focusing to infinity and then backing off by one increment gives good focus results.

lfoss (author)advaym2017-04-17

Oh, and here is my moon picture from wayyyy back in January 2009. It was taken with a Nikon D50 DSLR (their cheapest / crappiest model available at that time) and the 55-200mm 'kit lens' that came with it (also pretty horrible). I don't believe there was any post processing done to it at all, other than cropping the vast amounts of black space around it in MSPaint. Haha. So this is basically how it came 'off the camera'. The EXIF data seems to have been stripped away from the file, but I'm pretty sure I was shooting with the aperture wide open (which was only f/5.6 at 200mm zoom on that lens) and then just adjusted the shutter speed until I got an exposure that made me happy. The picture is maybe a tad over-exposed, but I had just got the camera (my first DSLR) for Christmas and was pretty new at this stuff (and didn't know about .NEF / .RAW mode), so I think it came out okay!!

lfoss (author)Philbert D2017-04-16

"If, on the other hand, you're trying to say that the something about a DSLR's imaging capability is inherently superior to other types of cameras, that's unsubstantiated"

Actually, this is most definitely *not* unsubstantiated. A DSLR camera generally has an image sensor 10 to 20 times larger than a 'point-and-shoot' camera. This has nothing to do with how many "megapixels" the camera has. It has to do with the size of the individual photoreceptors on the sensor. The photoreceptors on a DSLR image sensor are *much* larger than those of a point-and-shoot camera. This means that they are more sensitive to light and therefor the camera does not have to provide nearly as much 'gain' to the raw sensor data to produce an image (*ALL* digital cameras do this, BTW). This results in images that have: better contrast, better sharpness, better color reproduction, etc.

Obviously, the quality of your lens will also play an important role, but it is the larger sensor size of DSLR cameras that give them an advantage over the tiny image sensors found in point-and-shoot cameras.

I would recommend doing a Google search such as "why sensor size matters" and read up on this before YOU make unsubstantiated claims on why you *think* that all cameras are created equal. They are not. Facts will always out-weigh opinion.

advaym (author)lfoss2017-04-16

Thanks for weighing in with all the technical details! :)

MartyK1 (author)2017-04-17

Nice instrucable. I really enjoy moon photography, and you've done a good job explaining it. I've also found that, especially at night in humid summer months, lens fogging is a problem. When you take your camera and lens from a cool air-conditioned space to a warm humid space, the condensation will form pretty quickly on the lens. When I want to shoot the moon in the summer, I wrap my camera in a towel and leave it outdoors (in the car is usually good) for an hour or so, just to get it the same temperature as the outside air. That really helps keep it from fogging up and decreasing the clarity of the photos. Also bought a telescope adapter to use my camera with a 900mm telescope for some really nice detail.

BradJ37 (author)2017-04-17

I used a C8 with a T adapter.

Sasquatch885 (author)2017-04-17

When I download this it chops off the bottom of the file. When I print it the top of each page is overwritten with the top banner. I am using an android Samsung tablet and Chrome browser.

robotmaker (author)2017-04-16

i use your setting but i use a special 1200 mm lens and special viewfinder ,like the kind use on telescope,plus a super steady tripod

using a canon T2 REBEL and right now adding a pi camera board to the viewfinder

and add a moon tracker

advaym (author)robotmaker2017-04-17

Wow you've used all fancy stuff here! I'm sure your photos will come out amazing!

CraigieD (author)2017-04-16

I was just outside the other night trying to take pictures of the moon with my Nikon D5100. They were turning out over exposed. So with this "how to", i will try again :)

advaym (author)CraigieD2017-04-16

I hope you find this useful!

CraigieD (author)advaym2017-04-17

I have saved it in my favourites so i can try this on a clear night. But i am sure i will find it very useful. Thanks for sharing this "how to" :)

PUC3L3V_ (author)2017-04-16

Here are mine from Sep and Oct 2016

MartinG126 (author)PUC3L3V_2017-04-16

These are 2 fantastic shots! The composition on your half Moon makes it my favorite.

GuyPrezeau made it! (author)2017-04-16

Nice pictures.

As a bonus wait for a half moon and get the craters....


advaym (author)GuyPrezeau2017-04-16

The craters look beautiful! :)

BigAndRed made it! (author)2017-04-16

Use as wide open aperture as you've got to get maximum amount of light, depth of field is irelavent as the subject is far away. Manual focus is more accurate. Spot meter should be ok. Standard rule to avoid camera shake is 'shutter speed = 1/ focal length of the lens'.

This photo is taken at 6:40am with a 1300mm lens on a Pentax K3, 1/250 sec, f6.7, iso400

advaym (author)BigAndRed2017-04-16

Your photo has comes out pretty well!

bill2009 (author)2017-04-16

Great. Thank you!

advaym (author)bill20092017-04-16

Thanks, i'm glad you like it!

jalexander23 (author)2017-04-16

Well done.

advaym (author)jalexander232017-04-16

Thank you!

rickharris (author)2017-04-15

Just a small point the moon only appears bigger at the horizon, it's not really bigger. In a photograph it will be exactly the same as at the zenith.

In fact as your looking through a thicker layer of atmosphere your photograph may be worse.

just a small thing.

El_012345 (author)rickharris2017-04-16

While it's true that the Moon just appears larger near the horizon, that "appears" is based on the optical effects. Essentially the atmosphere acts like an additional lens either for your eye or as an additional lens for your camera. So, camera still will "see" it larger. However, atmosphere is a very lousy lens, which, as you both correctly pointed out, is best to be avoided. :-)

advaym (author)El_0123452017-04-16

thanks for the physics behind it! :)
and yes, moral of the story is to avoid the moon near the horizon!

abennett6 (author)El_0123452017-04-16

Nope! This is purely illusion based on human perception. Here's an excellent article with some great pictures:

advaym (author)rickharris2017-04-15

thats actually true, thanks!
and yes it appears hazy when looking through a thick layer of atmosphere, that's why if you want all the craters on the moon to look detailed you should photograph it when it's up above!

ElectroFrank (author)2017-04-16

Some telescopes and binoculars have a rubber eyecup which will slip firmly onto the end lens tube of some small cameras, giving quite good results.

cdstudioNH (author)2017-04-14

Awesome!! I could have used this a few weeks ago for my photo for the jewelry 'ible. Can't wait to try this out.

Stevens Workshop (author)2017-04-14

Hi Advaym,
Nice Instructable although i would question your statement "First, choose a day which will have a FULL MOON. moon photographs come out best on full moon days."
A full moon doesn't give much definition on the mountains or craters on the moons surface. I've stuck a couple of my photos in as an example. That said, all of your camera setup hints and tips work well.

advaym (author)Stevens Workshop2017-04-14

I agree with what you're saying.
but for someone who's doing it for the first time, it's easier to photograph the full moon. Once you have a little experience with camera settings and how to do it, then all different phases of the moon can be photographed!

zach krueger 7 made it! (author)2017-04-13

I did this with my Panasonic-Lumix camera, its not a dslr, but a point and shoot with a 60x zoom... but your images are really impressive! Good job!

advaym (author)zach krueger 72017-04-14

your photo is pretty good! congrats!

gm280 (author)2017-04-13

Obviously the wider you open the lens the better resolution you get. But the moon is constantly moving and you have to keep the shutter speed within reason. I use to watch planets via a telescope and unless you panned the scope, everything went go out of shot really quick. I like your tutorial though.

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