How to Take Photos of Stars

Introduction: How to Take Photos of Stars

Take photos of stars, the moon or city lights(below) with just a tripod and a digital camera (works on some only)

Step 1: You Will Need.......

A camera where you can change the exposure time and a tripod

(sorry, no photos of the setup)

Step 2: Wait....

Till night

Step 3: Time

Set your camera's exposure time to around 15 seconds or above

Step 4: Set Up.......

Your tripod so that it points to the stars you want

Step 5: Photo Ideas

The above instructable is for stars, for the moon you will need a telescope or a set of binoculars a steady hand and the above.
The moon is a lot brighter than the stars so you may have to tone down the camera exposure time.

Remember, do not think that you can do the same for the sun.
1. you may burn your eyes out by looking at the sun through a telescope or binoculars.
2. you may burn the receptor on your camera.



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    14 Discussions

    Your camera might expose ok for the brightness of the moon, but you likely won't get much detail (craters) unless you underexpose. Whether you use a point and shoot or dslr you should be able to adjust your exposure compensation rather easily. If you have manual control, start with 1/6o second at f/8. If you camera is point and shoot, just take the picture in automatic mode. If the moon is all white, then start tweaking your exposure compensation down until you get the detail you want. It is best to rest the camera on a steady surface (ideally a tripod, but I have used rocks and trees. You can use the self-timer delay if you don't have a shutter release cable or remote. Good luck!

    Shutter speed depends on the focal length of your lens. A wide angle ( <20mm say) would be ok for stars and moon for 10s. A 200mm lens would need to be 1/15s or quicker if you're taking a picture of the moon, as it moves so fast. The best thing to do is actually UP the ISO to as high as your camera can do before it starts looking too noisy (or use noise reduction software). This means you can use shorter shutter speeds and minimise blur at any focal length.

    As said in the comments, noise discussion is missing. I don't have a lot of experience about astrophotography, but I do know a lot about noise in digital camera. Other details about talk topic are missing too, to make the Ible more knowledgable. I may plan on make my own based on this one and feedback from the comments, if you agree. As for noise, images from cameras that generates visible noise despite the lowest ISO setting use should past through a black frame subtraction process, if not already done in camera (for example, on some Nikon DLSR this was know as "Reduce noise?" withouth further details). This concist of taking a picture but with the shutter completely closed, that is completely dark (hence the name, black frame) and then substract this frame to the previous one or any you would like. This process removes much random noise by the camera that was preset in the black frame and that is also visible in the actualy picture, resulting in a much less "noised" picture. One could google for photoshop tutorials about black frame substraction if you're interested, it's quite simple. Thanks and sorry for bad english

    Read somewhere else, 6 seconds is the max. exposure time possible for something like this. Any longer makes the earth's rotation visible.

    1 reply

    True, but of course depends of the focal length of the lens your are using (know as, are you zoomed in or lot or not at all).

    Being zoomed in a lot amplifies any movement, and will make the earth rotation visible. I once had problem shooting the moon on a stable setup with a 200mm (digital) with 2 seconds, and I wasen't satisfied. Yet, the moon is so bright, if you calculate the exposure directly from it, it should be close to a normal sunny day. This will make the moon -and only the moon- clearly visible. Else, tweak your gear.

    Being not zoomed at all renders the movements of the stars caused by the earth rotation much smaller trails on the sensor, since a wide angle make everything seems farther. Since the trails are much "farther" away, they create a much smaller image on the sensor (or film) and thus, with our cameras' resolution we see them ok, aka not blurred (or not blurred enough for us to notice on our camera). Using higher resolution camera will show blur anytime using about 2 seconds or more, that's nearly garanteed.

    when you have autopano pro(not free), there is a function to have multiple shots off the same part off the sky, and it will increase brightness, and the turning off the earth is automatically adjusted

    when taking pics of moon, my settings are usually 1/50 or faster. the moon is fairly bright. its extremely hard to take somewhat good pictures of the stars in a town or city, i went up the the mountains once, and the picture was a lot better, more stars and brighter

    1 reply

    SubzeroFusion forgot to mention that the 15sec exposure is needed because you should always use the lowest possible ISO number (ISO100) to avoid noise. Also, if you have a dslr, you might get some light into the camera through the viewfinder, so seal that somehow. Also, i don't think 15 sec is enough to see the movemnt of the stars, the blur could possibly be from camera shake when hitting the shutter button, so it's reccomended to use a remote shutter release -r-i-Z-b-o-

    15 seconds? When I do that the stars have moved so far that they come out as streaks, and the moon is blurry. Here are two photos I took of the recent eclipse, shutter time was 1.5 seconds, and still a star has turned into a bit of a blur.


    You do really need to add photos of the setup. Also, you should discuss camera noise. If you take very dark pictures with a digital camera, you will get little specks that look like stars, but are in the same spots in every picture.