Learn star photography in 5 minutes

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Learn star photography in 5 minutes cover

Astrophotography or star photography is the pinnacle of photography for many people. It's intimidating at first because it looks so otherworldly, but it's actually quite simple.

This star photography tutorial teaches you everything you need to know in less than 5 minutes!

What do you need for star photography

  • A dark sky (check your local area using www.darksitefinder.com)
  • The right moon phase. New moon is ideal, full moon is too bright.
  • The right time of year for the milky way. I wrote an entire blog about Milky Way season here.
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah.

What you need to shoot astro photos

  • A tripod. I recommend spending some money to get a good one. All my gear is listed here.
  • A ‘fast’ lens. Fast meaning it lets in a lot of light, so you can use faster shutter speeds. This is my favourite astro lens.
  • A camera. Full frame cameras tend to do better as their pixels are larger and can receive more light.
  • A remote or delay trigger. Not necessary but definitely helps to reduce camera shake which leads to blurry images.
Mesa Arch in Utah, USA.

How to shoot star photos

  • Frame up your shot, it’s always nice to have a silhouette in the foreground but if you can’t find any then don’t worry about it just yet, let’s get these basics right first.
  • Set your camera to manual mode and make sure you’re shooting RAW photos.
  • Set your autofocus to manual.
  • Set your aperture to the lowest number possible, this means a bigger “tunnel” aka more light gets through.
  • Set your iso or sensor sensitivity to something like 3200 or 6400. This is where expensive cameras stand out. They will have less noise or digital grain than cheaper cameras.
  • Your white balance doesn’t matter because you’re shooting RAW, but I like to shoot Fluorescent at night.
  • Set your shutter speed to something like 10 seconds.
  • Disable any lens or image stabilisation.
  • To focus you’re going to enable live view and zoom in on a bright star or planet to focus. Turn your focus ring until you get the smallest point of light possible.
  • Use your remote to trigger and fire a test shot, make sure to not bump the camera as it’s exposing. If you don’t have a remote use a timer delay. The idea is to not move the camera at all. Check out this article about camera remotes.
  • Keep shooting until you get something you like, then shoot some more because you came all the way out here and you’re going to want to maximise your time. Try playing with some light painting to light up your foreground!
The galactic core of our milky way
The galactic core of our milky way. Goulburn, NSW, Australia.

A few things to note about astro photography

  • Full frame cameras are often better because they have bigger pixels and collect more light.
  • Shoot RAW so we have all the data the sensor picks up to edit, not just a compressed JPEG.
  • Red light head torches are handy because they don’t reset your eye’s sensitivity to light.
  • Dew can be a problem at night. Moisture in the air condensates on your lens and makes your shots all fuzzy. Solution: get a lens warmer or make one yourself using a cut up sock and some hand warmers (find them at a pharmacy or outdoors store).

Get all the best tools and techniques to become a great timelapse photographer.

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