St. Johns River by Heather Hummel

St. Johns River by Heather Hummel
St. Johns River by Heather Hummel Photography

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

8 Steps for Awesome Full Moon Photos

Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography
This month is a Blue Moon month. Needless to say, Facebook News Feeds, Instagram, and Twitter are aglow with blurry white blobs! Tossed into the bunch are gorgeous images of the full moon, perhaps reflecting on waters or rising over a mountainside.

(Note that while new smartphones now accommodate shutter speed technology, which is amazing, this article speaks to using a DSLR camera, which has control of ISO, shutter speed (including Bulb), and aperture settings.)

With so many opportunities to photograph a full moon in a given year, there are many chances to improve full moon photography skills where you can go from the white blob in the top photo to the crater defined full moon images below:
From this:

White Blob!
To this:
Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

Here are 8 steps for photographing the Full Moon. They are a foundational place to start, and depending on individual results, can (and should) be adjusted accordingly.

1. In order to enlarge the moon and show the details of the surface, use a good telephoto lens that is longer than 200 mm. Alternatively, such as in this example, if there is a landscape foreground, the focal length could be a wide angle.

Moonrise in the Rocky Mountains
Photo Credit:Heather Hummel Photography

2. Set the Camera Mode to Manual.

3. Set the ISO to 100 or whatever the base ISO is for your camera. Again, this is just a starting point. Some of these images were shot at higher ISOs.

4. Set the Aperture to f/11, whether using Manual Mode or Aperture Priority.

5. Set the shutter speed to 1/125 with an ISO of 100. If the ISO is set for 200, use a shutter speed of 1/250.

6. Set the focus to Manual. This is often done right on the lens.

7. Set the lens to focus on the center of the infinity sign. Note: Higher end cameras can accommodate infinity in different ways. This step is for more basic DSLR cameras.

8. Set the self-timer to two-seconds and press the shutter release. Depending on the results, either slow down or speed up the shutter speed. For example, if you are still getting a white blob, speed up the shutter speed. This is key: the reason for the white blob is the shutter speed is too slow, allowing the moon light to over expose the image. Speed it up, and you'll see greater moon surface definition.

Moon Rising Over Point Lobos
Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

In order to achieve even better results, add these accessories to your camera bag.

Filters: There will be situations where an filter will help to keep down the white blob effect. A neutral gradient graduated filter, such as this one by Tiffen, can help to shade the brightness of the moon while allowing more light on the foreground. If there are foregrounds such as the ones in the above examples, use a ND graduated filter to even out the foreground and the sky.
Tiffen 67mm Color Graduated Neutral Density 0.6 Filter

This example is a 67mm, be sure to get the right mm size for your lens(es).

Tripods:  I always use a tripod, such as Ravelli or Manfrotto, while on low light photography shoots.

Ravelli APLT4 61-inch Light Weight Aluminum Tripod With Bag
 Manfrotto MKCOMPACTLT-BK Compact Tripod (Black)

Remote Shutter Release:
For under $10, I highly recommend picking up a remote shutter release. Even though the camera should be set to a 2 second self-timer, having the remote shutter release adds to the reduction of camera shake. I use mine all the time in conjunction with the self-timer.
This top one is an example of one for Canons.

FotoTech FTRC-6 IR Wireless Shutter Release Remote For Canon EOS 5DS, 5DR, 7D Mark II, EOS 6D, EOS 7D, EOS 70D, EOS 60Da, EOS 60D, EOS 5D Mark III, EOS 5D Mark II, SL1, T6s, T6i, T5i, T4i, T3i, T2i, T1i Digital SLRS(Replaces Canon RC-5 RC-6) with FotoTech Velvet Bag

And this is an example of one for Nikons.

FotoTech ML-L3 Wireless Shutter Release Remote For Nikon D750, D5500, D5300, D610, D7200, D7100, D3300, D3000, D3200, D5200, D5100, D5000, D7000, D60, D80, D90, D600, CoolPix P7800, Coolpix P7000, P6000, P7100, N65, N75, Coolpix 8400, 8800, Pronea S, Nuvis S, Nikon 1 J1, Nikon 1 J2 Nikon 1 V1 V2 V3 Digital SLRS with FotoTech Velvet Bag

Between the filters, tripod, and remote shutter release, your full moon images will be on par with the pros!

Want to learn how to master low light photography and to capture your own low-light photos? My book MASTER LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY is available on Amazon.

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