Updated date:

How to Take Photographs of the Moon

Aside from writing, Bill loves to travel, take lots of photos, be outdoors, and go to new places.

Moon Shot

Moon Shot

Ever since I was a kid I've had a fascination with the moon, the planets, and with space in general. I grew up when the Apollo moon program was in full swing and remember very well my parents waking me up to watch Neil Armstrong become the first person to walk on the moon. Those were exciting times.

As an adult I still hold this fascination with the moon and the stars, and have always wondered how people captured those stunning pictures of the moon and the planets. Certainly, to photograph the planets you will need something more than your average digital camera, but quality pictures of the moon can be taken if you know how to do it.

When most folks take a picture of the moon they usually point their camera at it and fire away. What they wind up with usually looks like a small white blob. Not exactly what you had in mind is it? If their camera has a zoom they’ll most likely give this a try and wind up with just a bigger white blob. Still not so good. Bigger, but still just a white blob. Because the moon is so bright and the background of space is so dark most initial attempts at photographing the moon come out very overexposed.

Small White Blob

The small white blob

The small white blob

Big White Blob

The big white blob

The big white blob

Next up is usually an attempt at using some of the camera’s auto settings, such as night shot or the fireworks setting.

Unfortunately, the results are no different and you’ll have the same white blob for the moon. Is it time to give up? Don’t despair, with a little know-how and the right equipment you can get quality photographs of the moon similar to this.

Moon just after sunset

Moon just after sunset

Full Moon at night.

Full Moon at night.

Quite a difference! So how do you do it? The first thing to understand is what causes most moon pictures to be so overexposed.

One of the most common mistakes photographers make when first attempting to get lunar shots is underestimating the brightness of the moon. Your camera simply cannot adjust for the contrast between the brightness of the moon and the dark background when set to its auto mode. Your first shots will almost undoubtedly come out overexposed with an ugly bright circle where the moon should have been.

To get pictures without this overexposure you will need to make some adjustments to the settings on your camera.

Equipment

It helps immensely to have the right equipment when attempting to photograph the moon. A digital SLR or a digital super zoom camera is necessary as in order to get a shot that fills your frame properly you will need at the very least a camera that allows you to zoom in to 200mm (4X digital zoom). A 400mm to 500mm zoom capability will allow you get some really nice close up shots of the moon.

If your lens can accommodate a teleconverter and you have one then use it. A 1.4 teleconverter will increase the focal length of a 200mm lens by 40% to 280mm. I should also mention that you will need a tripod to do this. When you zoom in as much as you’ll be zooming in, your images are much more susceptible to camera shake. A good tripod will save you a lot of frustration and some blurry pictures.

The last thing to consider using is a remote camera trigger. If you do not have one, and most people don’t, then using the timer on your camera will also work.

Tripod

Tripod

I use a Canon SX10 IS Super Zoom

I use a Canon SX10 IS Super Zoom

Moon at dusk

Moon at dusk

Camera Settings

Choosing the correct moon photography settings is critical, and can be one of the hardest things to get right. Because of the variety of shooting conditions, there are no one-size-fits-all camera settings that work in all situations.

ISO Settings

Set your camera to its lowest ISO speed, usually 100. Since you are going to be using a tripod anyway there is no need to boost the ISO speed, just set it to the lowest value possible as this will give you the cleanest picture your camera can give you.

Aperture

The preferred aperture for moon shots is f/8 but this will also depend on your lens, so a range of say f/5.6 ~ f/16 is OK. You’ll have to play with this to find the right aperture for your camera and the conditions. As a general guideline use an aperture f/11 for a full moon, f/8 for a half moon, and f/5.6 for a quarter moon.

Shutter Speed

Start with a shutter speed of 1/250 to 1/350 and take some test photos. You may have to adjust the shutter speed depending on the phase of the moon and its brightness. Remember that the moon is moving in the night sky as you are photographing it so using a slower shutter speed increases the chances of a blurry image. Also, remember that the longer you leave the shutter open the more light you are letting in and the chances of overexposure increase.

Auto Focus

While our inclination is to leave the camera on auto focus it is best to take your camera off of this setting and switch to manual focus. In the manual focus mode set the camera to the infinite setting.

Aperture settings

Aperture settings

When

The best time to photograph the moon is usually just before sunrise or just after sunset. At this time the moon is close to the horizon and the residual light from the setting or rising sun can provide some different colors to the clouds and sky. For those crisp, clear shots of the moon against a deep black background shoot at night well after the sun has set.

August 10, 2014 Super Moon

August 10, 2014 Super Moon

August 10, 2014 Super Moon

August 10, 2014 Super Moon

August 10, 2014 Super Moon

Next time you get a clear evening and the moon is out grab your camera and give it a try. There is a certain amount of trial and error involved in getting this just right but once you do it can be a very rewarding experience. Good luck and remember, practice makes perfect. Happy shooting.

© 2012 Bill De Giulio

Comments

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 12, 2018:

Hi Chris. Thanks for stopping by. All it usually takes is a few manual settings to get some great moon photos. Glad it worked out for you. Have a great day.

Chris Mercer from Winter Haven, Fl. on April 12, 2018:

Thank you for the insights about the extreme contrasts, I never gave it a thought when I got the white blob photo instead of a good clear shot. I used to typically just use the "automatic" settings in most cases and frequently got "decent" photos. I have been exploring the manual settings and have been surprised at the difference it can make.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 13, 2017:

Give me a couple of days, my wife has our computer with her in Florida at the moment and I don't have those photos on the iPad.

Laura Tallo from Louisiana on August 13, 2017:

I would need one in full resolution (300 ppi) instead of 72. My email is laura@lauratallo.com if you would care to send me some. Thank you!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 13, 2017:

Hi Laura. I have never sold any jpegs or even thought about it to be honest. If you would like to use any of the moon photos in the hub feel free, you have my permission. I did visit your website, very interesting. Thanks for stopping by.

Laura Tallo from Louisiana on August 12, 2017:

I do Fairy Photography for little girls (www.lauratallo.com). I would love a moon shot to composite into a fairy picture. Do you ever sell the jpegs?

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on July 13, 2016:

Clear and straightforward advice to follow Bill, and a useful introduction to the much wider subject of astrophotography - as you rightly point out, most astronomic subjects require much more elaborate equipment, but I'm sure all who take up that hobby start with photographing the Moon.

Even photographing the Moon has its problems - notably the extreme contrast of light and dark - but can be mastered as you have shown here, if you know how to set up the camera. It helps of course in this day and age of digital photography that you can take a whole series of test photos and instantly see exactly what you get without it costing the Earth (or the Moon).

Although I've taken eclipse photos, I've never really tried to get good pictures of the Moon. You've spurred me on to try!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 25, 2016:

Thanks Kristen. I was always curious as to how this was done and with a little research and lots of practice it's now easy. Definitely an area of interest for me also. Thanks for stopping by, give it a try sometime.

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on January 25, 2016:

Bill, fantastic shots of the moon! I love photography and astronomy. They seemed to go hand and hand. Great tips on how to take photos of the moon with your camera. Great lens!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 25, 2014:

Hi Jenn, thank you. Hope you are giving it a try. Thanks for stopping by.

Jenn Dixon from PA on August 25, 2014:

Great advice and great photos!!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 15, 2014:

Hi Sage. Thanks for stopping by. Now is a great time to practice with the recent "Blood Moon". Give it a try. Have a great day.

Mackenzie Sage Wright on April 15, 2014:

Wow, great tips. I'm going to have to try some of them. I always get the white blobs, never anything really clear. Now I want to play around with my camera. Nice hub.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 23, 2013:

Hi renaissance dad. Thanks for stopping by and commenting. With today's technology our photos will be around for generations, which is a great thing.

renaissance dad from Phoenix AZ on April 23, 2013:

Nice concise entry, thank you. Photography can be such a rewarding activity and with the right skills and available equipment almost anyone can have memories preserved for generations to come.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 14, 2013:

Hi Kelly. It's a rite of passage that we all need to get a white blob first few times we try this :) Keep at it and in no time you'll have some great moon shots. Thanks for stopping by and good luck.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on April 14, 2013:

Very cool! So glad Susan shared this with me. I have gotten just the bog white blob...I guess I didn't realize that the light was too bright. It's so far away - I didn't consider that! I'm looking forward to giving it another try now. Thanks a bunch!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 14, 2013:

Hi Lynn. Give it a try. It's a great feeling when you finally get those great pictures of the moon. Good luck, let me know how it turns out.

Lynn S. Murphy on April 13, 2013:

oooo thank you. Next full moon I'm giving this awhirl and hopefully not get the blob anymore. TFS!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 13, 2013:

Hi Suzette. Thank you. Glad you enjoyed the hub. This whole moon thing has been a fascination of mine for years. Give it a try sometime. Many thanks, enjoy the weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 13, 2013:

Hi vocalcoach. Don't give up yet. You can do this. A lot if it is trial and error. But, feel free to enjoy these photos :) Thank you for stopping by and taking the time to leave me a comment.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 13, 2013:

Hi Sneha. I think we all got those white blobs first time we tried this. Don't despair, a little know-how and trial and error and you'll taking great shots of the moon. Many thanks for the visit.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 13, 2013:

Thanks Dyhannah. Glad you found this hub helpful. Give it a try sometime. Thanks for stopping by.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 13, 2013:

Hi Susan. Give it a shot. It's actually great fun and when you get it right the pictures will be amazing. You've got the tools; 35mm & tripod. Just need the moon out tonight and you're all set. Have fun :)

Suzette Walker from Taos, NM on April 13, 2013:

Very interesting and informative hub for photographers. I learned a lot from this hub. Thanks so much for sharing your photo knowledge with us. Your photos of the moon are excellent and make the moon look so interesting. I love the 'blob' pictures, too. You are so right -- without knowing how to take a proper photo of the moon it comes out a 'blob'. Thanks again for your instructions.

Audrey Hunt from Idyllwild Ca. on April 13, 2013:

Your photos of the moon are magnificent. I'd love to be able to capture the moon in a photo. But, I'm so new at this I can't even understand your vocabulary :) It may be less frustrating for me to simply enjoy the photographs of your outstanding pictures. Thanks!

Sneha Sunny from India on April 13, 2013:

Awesome hub! Great tips. I really enjoyed the photographs. I keep on taking pictures of whatever I can, and I too am from those photographers who get nothing more than a white blob of moon! Will try out these tips. :)

Dyhannah from Texas on April 13, 2013:

I love the moon and your hub is equally as captivating with great information and guidance. Excellent and very useful Hub.

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on April 13, 2013:

You've just inspired me to get out my old 35mm camera to try and get some moon shots. I have a great tri-pod buried in my closet. Can't wait to try this. Excellent hub!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 12, 2013:

Hey Sheila. Its good to know that Pinterest generates traffic :) Every now and then I get in the mood to take pictures of the moon. It's great if you can find a nice location away from trees and lights. Really appreciate the visit and the vote, pin,etc. BTW, I do love Pinterest also, great site. Have a wonderful weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 12, 2013:

Hi rajan. Thank you. It took a lot of trial and error but it's worth it once you get the hang of it. Give it a try sometime and let me know how it works out. Thanks for the vote, share, pin and everything else. Have a great day.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on April 12, 2013:

Great information and tips! It's been a long time since I have taken any pictures of the moon. I need to find a place that doesn't have so many trees! I love to take pictures when the moon is really big and fat! Great hub! Voted up, useful, beautiful and pinning! BTW, came here via Pintrest. :)

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 12, 2013:

Bill, first off, these pictures of the moon are just mind blowing. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips. I understand it takes a lot of time, effort and practice to get pictures such as these but at least I know how to go about it now.

Thanks for sharing.

Voted up, useful interesting, awesome and shared and pinned

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 10, 2013:

Hi hreichel. Thank you, appreciate you stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Heather Reichel from Northwestern Pennsylvania on February 10, 2013:

great work and nice photos voted up useful and beautiful

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on December 29, 2012:

Thanks Eddie. Took me a lot of trial and error but it's worth it in the end. Many thanks for the visit, vote, share, etc... Have a happy and healthy New Year.

Eddie Carrara from New Hampshire on December 29, 2012:

Hey bdegiulio,

Not only does this hub have great tips, but is is also put together very well, anyone who is looking for information on how to take photographs of the moon will definitely benefit from the detailed information here, well done! Up, Awesome, and shared :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 28, 2012:

Give it a try. It comes down to a certain amount of trial and error but it's worth it in the end when you get some great photos. Good Luck.

nakmeister from Lancaster, UK on September 28, 2012:

Great hub, thanks! I"m going to have to give this a go. Just need to get a new camera first...

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 28, 2012:

Thanks deepak2u. Glad you enjoyed it and I hope it helps. Have a great day.

Govind Deepak Kumar from Telangana,INDIA on August 28, 2012:

Very very interesting article

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 15, 2012:

Thanks sradie. You figured it out on your own, way to go. That's how I did it, trial and error. That's half the fun and it's more rewarding when you finally get it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

sradie from Palm Coast FL on August 15, 2012:

I wish I'd read this long ago. I just recently figured it out through much trial and error. This hub would have given me everything I needed to get good images right away. Good job.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 14, 2012:

Hi leakeem. The moon on the horizon makes for a great shot. Thanks for commenting. Welcome to HubPages.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 14, 2012:

Hi Nesbyte. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Give it a shot. Have a great day.

leakeem from Earth on August 14, 2012:

Nice hub and really useful tips. Now the next to do is to wait 'til the skies are clear and the moon is low over the horizon. Thanks for sharing!

Nesbyte from UK on August 14, 2012:

Brilliant hub, very informative. I might just try taking some shots of tonight now that I've read this.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 08, 2012:

Hi photostudiosupply. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Have a great day.

photostudiosupply from Rochester, New York on August 08, 2012:

Great tips for moon photography. Nice hub...

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 06, 2012:

You're welcome. Just takes a little trial and error. Glad it worked out.

Random on August 05, 2012:

Thanks a lot for this! Ive been trying to figure this out for some time now. Just got some great shots of Mr. Moon!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on August 01, 2012:

Hi Melissa. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. Give that full moon a "shot" tomorrow. Let me know how it works out. Good luck.

dappledesigns from In Limbo between New England and the Midwest on August 01, 2012:

really great hub! right in time for our full moon tomorrow too!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 31, 2012:

Hi snigdha.s. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, glad you enjoyed the Hub. Never heard the one about the rabbit in the moon but I agree that it is very soothing to just sit back and admire the moon. Thanks again and have a great day.

snigdha.s from India,mumbai on July 31, 2012:

This is a great Hub . There is something very soothing about the Moon. It has a calming effect. Just like when you listen to good music and you get lost,similar is the feeling while admiring the beauty of the Moon. As a kid had heard many stories about a rabbit in the moon and i keep picturing the rabbit.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 02, 2012:

Thanks starstream, I appreciate the comments. I've been fascinated with the moon since I was a little kid also. I like the pen name, Any significance to it?

Dreamer at heart from Northern California on April 02, 2012:

I used to really enjoy seeing the moon through my telescope as a kid. It was so beautiful. I hope many readers try to take some photos. I voted your hub up.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 02, 2012:

Thanks Steph and Happyboomernurse,

Give it a try some evening. It's a great feeling when you finally get some good photos of the moon.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on April 02, 2012:

Great hub with lots of tips on how to photograph the moon.

I was laughing when I saw the shots of the small and big white blobs because that's exactly how my attempts at photographing the moon turned out. At least now I know why they looked that way.

It's cool that you gave specific instructions on how to get good shots with the proper equipment and settings.

Voted up, useful, awesome, beautiful and interesting.

Stephanie Henkel from USA on April 02, 2012:

I've tried moon shots so many times with few successes. Although I don't have an SLR, I do have a good zoom on my camera, and I think your instructions will help me to get better photographs next time I try. Thanks for a really useful hub! Voted up and shared!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on April 01, 2012:

Thanks vasmenon. It is definitely a process of trial and error so keep at it. When you finally get it post some pictures. I appreciate the comments.

Vasanthan R Menon from India on April 01, 2012:

Excellent description of the topic. I guess the moon is every photography enthusiast's obsession at some point or the other. My little digital camera was put to test often during the initial times that I got one, to take pictures of the moon, as you see it in Nat Geo and such places. I had a lot of those small and big blobs in my collection too!!! Your hub has inspired me to take up the challenge once again. Useful and voting up...Thank you

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 31, 2012:

Thanks Vinner,

I appreciate the comments. I'm still pretty new at this but trying to make it work.

vinner from India on March 31, 2012:

cool article described in detail to the basics. Good work my friend. You have a good future in hubpages. Looking for more works from you

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 24, 2012:

Thanks Lenzy, something a little different. It was a Hub that was on my radar for a few weeks and finally got around to it.

Lenzy from Arlington, Texas on March 24, 2012:

Hey, that was a really interesting hub on photographing the moon. It certainly isn't your average hub. My camera probably isn't really good enough right now to photograph the moon, but I may try it out anyway sometime. The suggestions will be great for the future. Lenzy

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 24, 2012:

Thank You. Appreciate the comments.

mooboomoo from London on March 24, 2012:

Great hub, a must read for budding photographers.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 24, 2012:

Thank You babithababa. It's something I just started experimenting with years ago as I have always had this fascination with the moon. You know the saying, practice makes perfect.

babithababa on March 24, 2012:

Well researched .Congrats. The subject is rare also.Voted up!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on March 24, 2012:

Thank you for the nice comments. No, I'm just a photography enthusiast who has been taking pictures for a long time. It's definitely one of my passions. There's been a lot of trial and error of the years but that's part of the fun of it.

Catherine Taylor from Canada on March 24, 2012:

Awesome hub! My oldest daughter has recently become enamoured with astrology and photography. We have a lot of little whit blob photos. Your tips were very useful! Educational as well. Do you teach photography?