Camera shooting astrophotography pictures in the night sky.


A beginner's guide to astrophotography.

Taking shots of the night sky is about more than pointing your camera up. Exploring the principles of astrophotography will help you capture stunning images.

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Start photographing stars with your camera.

The night sky can be the ultimate canvas for a photographer — there’s something magnetic about it that keeps people looking up at the stars. With the right equipment and knowledge, you can take gorgeous pictures of everything from star clusters to the new moon, joining your fellow astrophotographers in mapping out deep space. 

Astrophotography of the stars using light painting techniques.

Light painting: Light painting is a popular technique that many photographers use to great effect, and not just with the night sky. Light paintings are long exposures that cause points of light to blur and travel, creating interesting photographs that are scribbled with light. Many astrophotographers use this method to capture the rotation of the Earth through the movement of the points of light of the stars.

Time-lapse astronomy photo of the moon traveling across the sky.

Time lapse: Time-lapse astrophotography is the process of setting up a camera to take photos at regular intervals and then combining those photos into a video, so you can see movements over a long period of time. If you’ve ever seen a video of the sun rising really fast, you’ve seen time-lapse photos.

Capturing a field of stars, or starscape, with space photography.

Starscapes: Capturing a massive view of the stars requires equipment and know-how, but the results can be spectacular, producing views of the stars that you’d be otherwise unable to capture with the naked eye. 

Shooting a close-up of the moon with astrophotography techniques.

Close-ups: Using a telescope, you can take truly spectacular images of celestial bodies. This style of photography requires a bit more equipment than your standard photo adventure. 

Once you’ve arrived, here are some key considerations for capturing your astrophotos:


ISO refers to how light sensitive the film in your camera is. In modern digital cameras, it refers to the sensitivity of the sensor in the camera to light. Higher ISO settings will result in brighter images, but they will also increase the graininess of your images. For astrophotography, you want to keep the ISO as low as you can, while still enhancing the light sensitivity, in order to keep your images of the sky as crisp and clear as possible.

Shutter speed

Shutter speed determines how long the shutter on your camera is going to remain open and allow light to hit the film in your camera or its digital sensor. It’s measured in relation to seconds, so a fast shutter speed might be 1/1,000 of a second, while a slow speed might be one second. For night photography, you’re going to have to use a tripod, because you need to use really slow shutter speeds, and you don’t want your image to blur. Try exposures of 5, 8, or even 10 seconds, and examine your results to see what looks best.


You’ll likely need to use a lower aperture setting (called an f-stop), because while higher f-stops will allow for an image with more depth of field, it will be difficult to get enough light for a good exposure. Because you’re not likely to be drawing attention to depth of field in photos of the stars, higher aperture settings will be the way to go (with exceptions of course).

Ultimately, the important thing is to keep an open mind, experiment, and see what you come up with, so you can see what equipment you need for future outings.

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