Do you want to know how to photograph stars? Photography is a rewarding hobby or profession. You get to create masterpieces with your camera. You can shoot fireworks, human faces and nature as well. Now if you also want to take pictures of stars, it is quite an advanced photography lesson to learn.
[Taking shots of the stars is called astrophotography, by the way.] It must be easy to capture the stars and the night sky. At the very least, you just need to pick your camera, point to the stars you want to capture and then depress the shutter button.
But that’s not that easy as it might sound. That’s why you have to learn what you need before astrophotography in one of your backpacking or camping adventures as a photographer.
Things you’ll need
• A camera with manual controls of the shutter speed and ISO
• A tripod to stabilize the camera and hold it steadily in position
• A wide aperture lens because you’ll need f/2.8 and much light combined with wide lens and field depth
1. Look for a location. Find the best spots in the night sky. One problem in taking pictures of stars is the light pollution. But this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re not in the city where there is not much light pollution. So again, choose a site for the star photography, preferably up to 100 miles from your city.[Pro tip: To minimize light pollution, find them by firing off successive shots in different areas of the horizon with the highest ISO of your camera to limit the amount of time for every shot to expose. You won’t use such photos for the final process, but they’re invaluable for information to know where not to take the images of the horizon.]
2. Find an open view of the sky, ideally a horizon filling about 33% of the frame. If you’re in high elevations, such as a mountaintop, you would notice the thin atmosphere, and this is perfect! To shoot through in spots with fewer light particles can make brighter, more vivid shots.
3. Look for targets! If possible, install an app for constellations and moon phases to see the sky view in specific places.
4. Improve your night vision. Let your eyes adjust to the darkness. Perhaps, you could be inside your tent without the lights for 45 minutes, and then cover one of your eyes as you turn the light on. The covered eye will adjust to the darkness. This will improve your night vision.
5. Get started. When taking shots of the stars, you need much light to hit the camera sensor. For this purpose, select and combine long shutter speeds, wide apertures and high ISO.
6. For the exposure time, keep it short. If not, the results would be bad. You might end up with the movement in the subjects, as the Earth is rotating.
7. Process the photos. The images won’t look like much at first. Processing the star photos is intimidating, but rewarding if you’d shoot in the RAW format (for cameras that have it). The RAW format lets you do more in the processing of the photos.
That’s about the basics on how to photograph the stars! They’re quite easy, don’t you think? So remember: Choose the location and find the least light polluted areas in the horizon to know where to and where not to take the shots.
Test your night vision and keep one of your eyes adept with the darkness for better sight of the sky when taking the pictures. You must also choose short exposure time and process the photos. For the best results, choose the RAW format if your camera offers it.
Taking Test Photos
This is the pre-astrophotography session you need to test your camera and experiment with it. Just like before you photograph fireworks, you must prepare and plan ahead, including surveying the location for the best spot and setting everything up. The main reason is to capture the best shots later.
1. Give yourself an orientation. You must point the camera, which must be mounted on a tripod, from artificial light sources, including roads and cities.
2. Adjust the camera’s setting to shoot the extra light. Find and open the aperture wide and choose the brightest ISO, which must be 1600+. Then, select a shutter speed that will capture the extra light – 30 seconds.
3. Take overexposed pictures. A majority of the areas looks white at this point, but it does not matter. You must check for the composition instead. Examine the test photos for elements, including trees, mountains or rocks. You may also want to look closely and check for bright spots due to light pollution or from the clouds. Look into the focus of the foreground elements and the stars.
4. Adjust the focus and composition by turning and panning the frame to your desired spot. Tilt it slightly until it levels with the horizon, and then refocus.
5. According to content and conditions, adjust the aperture, ISO and shutter speed for proper exposure.
6. Most importantly, shoot RAW images because RAW files are versatile regarding editing. Again, capture RAW shots, but get rid of the test shots later.
Taking test shots lets you set things up properly prior to the session itself. It also gives you an opportunity to adjust important factors including ISO, shutter speed and aperture based on conditions and content of the test images. Finally, remember to take RAW photos because the RAW format lets you edit the images more flexibly just as negatives do.
How To Photograph Stars: Avoiding Common Mistakes
• Using the autofocus settings – By doing so, you will end up with “out-of-focus” images. To avoid it, set your camera to manual mode. You must also adjust its focal length to infinity. Plus, you must do a test shot to check that the stars you’re targeting are in focus. You can review the result by zooming in to the horizon’s brightest on the camera’s display. Adjust if you find it out of focus.
• Judging the exposure with the LCD display – To fix it, use the histogram instead. It will show you the image range. You can be sure that the image is correctly exposed if the histogram shows a graph that’s shaped like a range or a mountain. You must keep adjusting the settings if you see that the mountain’s shape contains edges that appear like a cliff at the graph’s end.
• Choosing automatic noise reduction as one way on how to shoot stars – Even if it improves the shot’s quality, using it also double’s every picture’s shooting time. It also consumes much battery energy.
To fix the problem, you must disable the noise reduction settings of the camera for the test images. You can reset this for the last exposure. For low-resolution displays for digital, clean up the graininess later with noise filters to find in editing app.
There you have our guide on how to photograph stars to follow if you want to come up with excellent photos of the night sky and the stars. Use the tips featured above and be proud of your results later!
Did you find this tutorial helpful? Tell us in the comment section. Finally, share it with friends who love astrophotography on social media today!