Photographing the Moon

Camera Settings on manual:  f11 1/125 ISO 400  270mm (432 equivalent for 35mm)

Because you will use a slow shutter speed, use a tripod or some other way to stabilize your camera. If you have a self timer or remote, using one will help reduce any camera shake which would blur the image.
Focal Length
Use your most telephoto lens and zoom all the way in.

(Extra info: If you don't understand this it is ok.  Just move on.)  If you have a teleconverter this is an inexpensive way to get a closer shot. The longest lens I have is 300mm and used on a crop frame sensor, which most dSLRs are, I will get a magnification factor of 300mm x 1.6. So it would be like I was using a 480mm lens on a full frame or old 35mm film camera.  If I had a teleconverter I could increase the magnification factor even more.

Set your auto focus to the center of the moon.  Refocus throughout shooting since nothing would be worse than loading your photos later and find the focus was off.

If you can manual focus, set your focus to infinity and then back it off just a tad.  Infinity setting images below:

No Flash
Turn off your pop up flash.  A flash won't light the moon and it doesn't need light anyway.  Advanced photographers: You might use a flash if you want to light a subject standing with the moon behind it. This is something for those who want more of a challenge.  Expose for the moon, then add flash to light the subject.

Recipe for Manual Mode Exposure
The best thing you can do is shoot in Manual Mode if you can.  Here is a starting point:
Set your ISO to the lowest number: 100 (Canon) 200 (Nikon).  This will help minimize digital noise in your photo.  And even though it is dark outside, the moon is very bright.  Many people overexpose the moon and lose all the interesting detail.  An overexposed moon in a photo is not considered a proper exposure.
Set your aperture to F11. (F8-11 is usually suggested for shooting the moon.)
Set your shutter speed to 1/125(Canon) 1/250(Nikon) This will be your variable (what you change) to get proper exposure.

Give the above settings a try.  Check your shot on your lcd screen.  If the moon is too bright and has no detail use a faster shutter speed until you can see the detail.  If the photo is too dark use a slower shutter speed until you get enough light.  I usually find, with my gear, that when the moon looks just right on my lcd screen, it is actually a tad over exposed, so I photograph it when it looks just a tad dark on my lcd screen.

The reason you need to use manual mode is because the camera will read all the darkness of the night sky and try to brighten all of that up and in so doing overexpose the moon.  You need to tell the camera to keep the sky dark so the moon is not overexposed and the sky remains dark.

Here is a quick video using a Point and Shoot camera to shoot the moon. 

Photographing the moon takes some planning.  If you want a photo for our upcoming moon theme, you will need to start planning now.  I find the best time to photograph the moon is when there is still some light in the sky from a rising or setting sun.  Sometimes I like a little color left in the sky rather than black.  Of course, you also need to check the moon's phases to make sure you will have a moon in the sky before you plan to photograph it.  

Use this link to determine when the moon rises and sets in your neck of the woods.

Some other ideas to consider - Moon reflections, Moonlit silhouettes, Moon in the day sky


  1. thanks Rebecca, there are tips here that i can use on other things than moon shots....

  2. This is really useful information. I can never get a good, focused shot of the moon.
    Thanks for this post. I will use your info and try again.

  3. Wow - I love all of this info - there is to be a big fat full moon this weekend. Hopefully, I can a good shot of it using your recipe!


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