Night Sky Photography - How To Get Started

Night sky photography transports you to another dimension

Three Factors To Consider Before Shooting

Capturing critically sharp and well exposed night sky images comes down to simple camera settings and simple equipment.

 How bright the starlight appears at these settings will be dependent on a 3 environmental factors:

  • Sky Darkness
  • Moon Phase
  • Light pollution

Sky Darkness

It can be pretty difficult to fine dark skies in the UK. Just take a look at the image below! That said there are areas that make it easier to get decent shots.

Dark Sky Finder

Moon Phase

Shooting during the right moon phase will produce results that are up to 50% brighter.
Bright starlight is easily captured when shooting when the moon is less than half full. If the moon phase is half full or more the stars are simply overpowered and capturing bright starlight is incredibly difficult, if not impossible. There's an extensive range of apps that keep you up to date with the phases of the moon and most are free

Phases of the Moon App

Light Pollution

Artificial light pollution can decrease starlight definition by up to 50%. Light pollution looks similar to how UV Haze
does on film cameras, except the colour cast is orange instead of blue.
Eliminating light pollution is essential to capturing beautiful Night Sky images, however finding a location to shoot
without light pollution can be incredibly difficult if not impossible depending on where you’re shooting.
The orange color cast decreases contrast between the stars and the space behind them, making an the otherwise
black backdrop of space look orangish.

To eliminate light pollution you have two choices:
1. Avoid areas with light pollution
2. Eliminate light pollution with a Night Sky filter
When light pollution is eliminated out with a Night Sky filter it’s done so non-destructively.
A Night Sky filter works wonders by making the backdrop of space appear more black, making each individual star stand out more.

You lose about 1-stop of light with a high quality Night Sky filter. To compensate for this instead of F8 you use F7.1, or instead of ISO 200 use ISO 400

Buy Night Sky Filter

Exposure

From an exposure settings standpoint it’s very simple.

The longer you keep the shutter open, the more starlight will hit the sensor, and the quantity of stars will greatly increase but any longer than 30 seconds and you will start to record star trails like the image below. 

Aim for an f-stop between F1.4 and F7.1  and ISO between 200 and 3200   

Start at ISO 1600/F2.8 to see how bright the night sky is.

If it's too bright  too bright go to F4

If it’s still too bright drop from ISO 1600 to ISO 800

If you’re already at your lowest F-number and it’s too dark go from ISO 1600 to ISO 3200

Focusing

Find a bright star and zoom 100% onto that star to focus. If the star is completely circular and in-focus you’re focused to infinity. Disable autofocus and image stabilization.

Give it a go! We'd love to see your images!