Astrophotography is a beautiful way to showcase the vastness of our universe, although this particular form of photography is not necessarily the easiest. Taking photos in the darkness of night can be challenging. One might be curious as to what settings they should use on their camera or what type of gear they might need before they make their first attempt at taking photos of stars. While I am far from what one might call a professional photographer, I have always been interested in astrophotography and thought I would compile a guide for those who, like me, have taken in interest in this form of photography.
Composition and Location
The night sky is incredibly interesting. However, a photo that consists of nothing but the night sky can be mundane. Everyone has seen a photo of the Milky Way. Capturing interesting details in the surrounding landscape adds an abundance of value to the photo and will certainly attract more attention.
Unfortunately, the beauty of the Milky Way is often hidden by light pollution in areas with a dense population. Those who wish to capture this aspect of the sky will need to travel to an area with a relatively low population in order to capture its natural splendor.
The proper configuration of your camera is absolutely essential in order to obtain a presentable photo. One very common mistake that many photographers make when they first attempt astrophotography is leaving their shutter open for far too long. Due to the earth’s rotation, this will almost always result in the stars streaking across the sky. To prevent this, simply utilize what is often refereed to as the rule of 600. Divide 600 by the focal length that will be used to take the shot. The quotient is the exact amount of time that the shutter should be open before streaking begins to occur. However, if the camera has a cropped sensor, the focal length will need to be multiplied by 1.6 before the exposure time can be properly calculated.
Focusing in the dark can be particularly challenging. It is generally recommended for the lens to be focused on infinity. However, I believe that pre-focusing will ultimately result in a sharper photo. This, of course, requires the camera to be in one place for many hours before the photo can be taken.
Lens choice is another important aspect of astrophotography. The goal is to use the longest exposure time possible so that more details of the sky are visible inside of the photo. Prime lenses are perfect for this task. A 24 mm lens at f/1.4 is ideal and will produce excellent results. The majority of other configuration options are dependent upon the lens that is attached to the camera.
A Tripod is a Necessity
Those who are already familiar with astrophotography are well aware of the importance of a quality tripod. Any vibrations that occur while the shutter is open will result in a blurry photo. To ensure that the camera is free of any remaining vibrations, place the tripod on a stable surface and set a 10-second timer.
Know of any other photography tips? Be sure to share them by posting them in a comment below!