How to Take Dramatic Photos of the Moon
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
You can do better than this if you use a tripod!
Taking photos of the moon itself is actually very simple. You will need some equipment - a camera that can be set to manual mode, a telephoto lens - at least 200mm, a tripod, and an optional remote trigger.
Unlike the Blood Moon photo above that was shot well into the night, it's easiest to photograph the Moon shortly after it rises and just before it sets because it will be closer to the horizon and will appear larger than in the open sky, you will also have the benefit of the soft sunlight which will allow you to get the surroundings incorporated in your image, making it more interesting and dramatic.
BASIC SETTINGS TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MOON:
• Camera mode: set to manual
• Turn off Image Stabilization/Vibration Reduction to avoid blur
• Lens: take all the filters off, set the lens focus to manual and switch to infinity ∞
You can shoot on autofocus also, in this case focus on the edge of the moon for the lens to focus faster
• ISO 100
• Aperture F11
• Shutter Speed 1/125 or faster because the moon moves pretty fast!
• Set the white balance to daylight white balance, or try other settings like cloudy or tungsten to see which one you prefer, or set manually to 5800K and work your way down to achieve a warmer look, or up to achieve a cooler look, don't bother with this if you are shooting in RAW - you can tweak this in post later
Use a sturdy tripod and a remote trigger, if you don't have a trigger use in-camera timer to avoid vibration that will cause blur.
Stay with ISO100 or ISO200, the higher the ISO the grainer the image will be
You can vary aperture and shutter speed to achieve the artistic results you want.
Don't shoot with super small apertures, stay between F8 - F11, F11 being the ultimate sharp image for astrophotography. Anything under F11 will lose sharpness, anything over F11 will cause light diffraction, and will blur your moon.
Shoot in RAW if you can because you will want to tweak your image in post
Take your image from camera to computer and manipulate it to make it look the way you want, it's your Moon and your vision, be dramatic, do whatever pleases your heart, be creative and experiment, practice and repeat the process over and over for the joy of it.
HOW I SHOT THIS PARTICULAR SHOT
Having said all that, let's break some rules, because life happens, and sometimes quick and dirty is the way to go, and it's ok.
I shot this Blood Moon on the night of the first lunar eclipse 2019. I was not prepared - my puppy was sick and stumbling into the walls, I was watching her closely as I was reading a very interesting and captivating book. Suddenly the coyotes and neighborhood dogs started howling loudly and persistently, making my puppy even more upset, and that's when I realized that I had forgotten about the lunar eclipse and had nothing prepared to take photos of it. There wasn't much time, so I quickly switched my lens to the most powerful telephoto lens I had - my EF100-400mm, "the beast," it's also great to take photos of the birds or to sneak unexpected shots of the strangers on the streets. I went outside and it was so cold my bare feet were going numb from standing on the ground, but it was worth it to watch the moon covered in its red veil. I snapped just a few shots and ran back inside to watch the eclipse from my warm house.
Unfortunately I didn't use a tripod because I didn't want to spoil the moment by searching for it and setting it up - I propped my camera lens on the back of the sturdy outdoor couch instead, steadied myself and froze every time I took a photo. I didn't even use a remote trigger or in-camera timer - there was no point to it without a tripod. I forgot to take off the UV filter from the lens. I set ISO800 because I knew my Canon 5D Mark IV could handle it, it's light sensitive, but if I shot this with my 5D Mark II I'd set it to ISO100. The reason I went with the higher ISO was because I wanted to bring in the stars from the night sky into the shot. I zoomed my lens to the maximum focal length of 400mm, and I shot on autofocus, I also forgot to turn off Image Stabilization. That's why my image is not in sharp focus, but it's still gorgeous and dramatic.
I did tweak it in post, I use Lightroom, and here are the few quick adjustments that made all the difference:
• I made temperature warmer, and boosted the tint, which gave my moon a faint blood moon color
• I brought highlights, shadows and blacks down
• I I brought whites and clarity up
• I cropped and aligned the Moon, and voila, my Dramatic Blood Moon!
Thanks for reading and I hope it was helpful, go take a photo of the moon and send it to me, I'd love to see it! Check out my recent work on instagram Liza Mahler Photography
By the way, the puppy ate something bad outside and was totally fine the next day :)