Night Sky Photography: pro secrets for stunning moonlight landscapes

Night Sky Photography: pro secrets for stunning moonlight landscapes

Timing your moonlight photography

Timing your moonlight photography

Image by David Clapp

The shooting period for moonlight landscape photography revolves around a full moon and two or three days either side. It also needs to be a clear night. The best times are two to four hours after the moon has risen, when it’s at a good angle to create shadows and reveal form in the landscape.

When shooting under a full moon, try a baseline exposure of one minute at f/5.6 using ISO400. For the day either side of a full moon, you’ll need to increase the exposure by 50% – 1.5 mins at f/5.6 and ISO400, for example. Two days from a full moon it would be 2 mins at f/5.6; ISO400.

The best approach is to take a shot at these settings or equivalent, check the LCD image and histogram and make any necessary adjustments. It’s often worth bracketing anyway, by taking three or more consecutive shots at differing exposure times.

Another approach is to use the light reflected from stars to ‘paint’ their own picture as the earth rotates and they appear to move across the sky. Rather than shooting the stars themselves, use a foreground feature such as a tree that you can silhouette against the sky with star trails circling above it.

Alternatively, introduce some artificial light to illuminate the foreground. This could either be a burst of flash fired during the exposure, or torch light used to ‘paint’ the foreground with light.

PAGE 1: Using moonlight in your night sky photography
PAGE 2: Timing your moonlight photography
PAGE 3: Three ways to get great photos in moonlight
PAGE 4: How to photograph the moon
PAGE 5: Essential night sky photography tips to remember


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  • Patrycja Sioła

    Krakow Main Square, Mariacki Church, Poland on the last photo :)