Photographing a Supermoon can be a great time for many photographers and can also be a challenge. This past week I got the opportunity to photograph the first Supermoon of 2018. For many people the event is not a big deal. However, for me, it is because I have always been fascinated with the moon and the photos that are taken of it. During the January 1st Supermoon event I was able to see many photos taken by my brothers and sisters who love photography. Some of the images were very impressive. What I have noticed since I started taking photos of the moon is it is not that easy to do for most photographers. However, taking every opportunity to photograph the moon can help improve any photographers night photography skills.
As we all know they are many resources to get information on how to photograph the moon. After a little research, I found some great tips. According to Nasim Mansurov of Photography Life, here are some helpful tips on how to take a great Supermoon image.
- If you do not have a remote shutter release cable or device, set your camera to a timer. The idea is to eliminate camera shake caused by your hands and the mirror slap before the exposure. If you shoot with a telephoto lens longer than 300mm, it is best to enable exposure delay mode in combination with the timer. If you shoot with a Nikon DSLR, go to the Custom Settings menu, find Exposure Delay and turn it on. On newer Nikon DSLRs like D800, set Exposure Delay to 3 seconds. If you have a remote shutter release cable or device, then a timer is not necessary, but I would still turn Exposure Delay on to prevent mirror slap from potentially causing camera shake.
- Turn Image Stabilization / Vibration Reduction off on the lens.
- Set your camera + lens on a stable tripod, point at the moon and lock it down. Since the moon moves fast, you might need to readjust the position multiple times.
- Set camera mode to Manual for full exposure control.
- Set ISO to camera’s base ISO (typically ISO 100 or 200) as a start and turn off “Auto ISO”. You might need to increase ISO a little later if the shutter speed is too low. The above image was captured at ISO 200.
- Set aperture between f/8 and f/11. If you shoot with a teleconverter, stop down the lens a little to get maximum resolution. For example, if you have a f/2.8 lens and you are using a 2x teleconverter, your maximum aperture will be f/5.6. Set your lens aperture to f/8 minimum to get sharper results (the above photo was captured at f/11)
- Set shutter speed to between 1/125 to 1/500 of a second. You do not want to shoot at slow shutter speeds, especially at long focal lengths, because the moon moves very fast. If you have your camera metering set to spot metering, your built-in camera meter will indicate if the moon is properly exposed or not. Use that meter to balance the correct shutter speed (make sure to keep the focus point on the moon when you do that). I set my shutter speed to 1/125 for the above shot.
- If the moon appears large enough in your viewfinder, set the camera to Live View mode and focus on the moon. The camera should be able to acquire proper focus. If it cannot, then you will have to manually adjust focus to infinity.
- Take a sample shot and make sure that the moon is properly exposed (not like a white blob or too dark). Adjust ISO or shutter speed as necessary.
- To have the least amount of noise and better post-processing options later, use the “Expose To The Right” technique if you can (make sure to shoot in RAW format). Basically, slightly over-expose your shots without blowing out any highlights. The above photo was slightly overexposed, which I corrected in Lightroom later.
As for my photo, I used a Tamron 18-400mm telephoto lens, tripod, set my ISO to 400, 1/250 shutter speed and the aperture to F14. I did some slight editing in Lightroom CC and kept the original color and white balance. To get more detail I did adjust some clarity and sharpness of the image. For me, the image turned out great. However, I plan to get better.
What I have found when shooting the Supermoon is to take every opportunity to shoot the moon whenever you can. Shooting at night requires a photographer to experiment with his or her settings. With a little practice, it makes one a more skilled photographer. I should know, when I started shooting the moon all I really got was a not-so-big white ball.
Until next time, keep shooting.