How to Take a Picture of the Moon

Right, so you’ve mastered your camera, or at least you think you have. You know the settings inside out, and you’ve worn out the usual subjects. Your dog is fed up with having a camera pointed in its face and your friends don’t feel comfortable with you slyly trying to take photos of them anymore. What next?

taking a picture of the moon

Photo captured by Jose Avilez (Click Image to See More From Jose Avilez)

Well, what I’m going to discuss in this post is how to take a picture of the moon. It’s a subject that is relatively easy to shoot if you know what you’re doing. It doesn’t move a lot and can create a very professional shot. Whether it’s a full moon, half moon, or crescent moon it doesn’t matter. Just find a good spot and a clear night and you’re set!

Necessary Items for Good Moon Photography

  • Your Camera
  • At least a 300mm zoom lens (preferably more)
  • A Teleconverter
  • A Tripod
  • A Remote Shutter Release Controller
  • Patience

Well you know you need your camera, so I’ll start with the zoom lens. The reason we need a large lens is that the moon is tens of thousands of miles away. I know it’s large in size but it still appears small in the night sky. At 300mm we should be able to make it fill about an eighth of the frame. If you can get a 500mm lens, all the better, but it can be expensive to pick up these really large lenses. A way around this is to look for a place to rent lenses. There are a lot about and will give you good deals if you only need it for 24 hours. Great if you plan it around a full moon.

moon photography

“Crescent Moon” captured by Moxy (Click Image to See More From Moxy)

However, as we’re all on budgets, another way to get around this is to get what’s known as a teleconverter. This is a sort of magnifying glass which you screw onto the end of your lens barrel. It will multiply your focal length by the factor of the converter. Usually this is 2x or 1.4x. So if you have a 300mm lens, using a 2x teleconverter will make it a 600mm lens. You may lose a bit of your frame size, but it’ll work great. Another advantage is that you can double up these converters. So if you used a 2x and a 1.4x your 300mm zoom lens would be a whopping 840mm. This will start to get the moon quite large in your frame.

So, you’ve got your combination of good lens and converter. The next thing you need is a stable tripod, especially if you have a huge lens on the camera. As you’ll be using long shutter speeds because you’re shooting at night, you will need the camera to be completely still. This is also why you should purchase a remote shutter release control. This will enable you to line up the shot then stand back and press the shutter from afar, thereby preventing any shake when you press the button. Clever!

A few things to bear in mind when doing this though. The moon moves quicker through the sky than you think, so if you’re taking a while to set up everything, keep checking the shots as you go. Also, as the moon is a large source of reflected light from the sun in a dark surrounding, you’ll need to make sure you expose it properly. I’d advise shooting in RAW mode so you can tweak the exposure in a software program afterwards; you don’t want all that time and effort to go to waste.

photographing the moon

“Eclipse 2008” captured by CameraClicker (Click Image to See More From CameraClicker)

There you have it. Don’t waste time. Get your kit together and start shooting!

About the Author
Alex Jungius – If you want to learn more about Photography & Canon Lenses. Check out my website.

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10 Comments

  1. Ann says:

    And the camera settings?

  2. Marshall Thompson says:

    Expose for daylight or all you get is a flat white disc.

  3. Dwayne says:

    I shot this pic through a 6″ dob telescope using my iPhone with (the only) standard settings.
    http://twitpic.com/2z63x7

  4. Ganesh S S says:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/48515926@N06/5012665280/

  5. Daniel says:

    Ok….. but….. what about de camera settings????

    • swaminath says:

      use ISO 100 or less, fast shutter speed, and or higher f-stop (f/10).

      moon is a bright object, so shoot it as if any other bright object.

  6. Paola says:

    and the camera settings????

  7. Peter Sawyer says:

    I would shoot a around 1/8000th of a second myself anything else and you will get a nice blurry disk.

  8. Alex says:

    Well, if you have a f/5.6 300mm lens – put just one teleconver on to get 600mm – you get a f/11 widest aperture. I guess that gives you a length of exposure which is sufficiently long enough to have the moon move in the frame……

    As to putting 2 teleconverters on for a f/22……. during a dark night…..

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