Mastering astrophotography is much different compared usual everyday photography. Grasping the right angles, lighting and other elements within a celestial environment thousands of miles away can be intimidating. A number of tricks and tips are helpful when learning this type of photography, including planning for your session properly, gathering the right equipment and learning to take advantage of dark skies.
10. Gather the Necessary Equipment
A regular point-and-shoot camera is okay for astrophotography, but if you want to get quality shots, it’s best to spend money on a DSLR camera. Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) cameras incorporate a single-lens model with a digital imaging sensor. The sensor yields a much higher quality picture, making DSLR cameras a great option for capturing planets, stars and other celestial elements.
Another essential item to include with your camera is a tripod. Keeping the camera as steady as possible will result in the best resolution and image clarity. Along with the tripod, you should also look into getting a remote release. This way you’re not nudging the camera and offsetting the focus. An alternative to a remote release is a self-timer function – many cameras are equipped with the option to take a delayed photo after a certain number of seconds.
The majority of the time, it’s going to be pretty dark out when you’re photographing. A number of companies manufacture headlamps with interchangeable red and white lights, or you could even make your own. These lights are very efficient, convenient and easy to travel with. The red light will help to preserve your night vision, and the white light brightens up dark areas.
9. Know the Functions of a DSLR Camera
Now that you have your equipment ready to go, it would be good to give yourself a bit of a tutorial first. A DSLR camera is much different than a normal every day or general photography camera; they are equipped with a number of advanced capabilities and applications to yield quality astrophotography images.
There are three main elements that work together with the exposure of a camera: ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. This is commonly recognized as the Exposure Triangle. ISO measures the sensitivity of the sensor and light, shutter speed is how fast or slow the camera captures the image, and aperture is the size of the opening of the lens, which controls what the picture’s focus.
So what is the relationship between the three? In short, they all work in conjunction with one another, so if one is off, all of them are off. The shutter speed affects how long the sensor is exposed to light; the aperture controls how much light, and ISO affects the sensitivity of the light and the sensor. It sounds like a lot, but once you have aligned these three elements, you’re ready to take some awesome astrophotography pictures.
Here’s the Exposure Triangle explained in full detail.
8. Learn the Benefits of a Photographing a Dark Sky
Perhaps one of the more intimidating obstacles to overcome in astrophotography is capturing a dark sky. What you may not know at first, is that there are a number of benefits with taking pictures of dark skies and it’s actually pretty simple to master. A dark sky provides great contrast for the celestial elements you are aiming for with your photography. If you plan your trip accordingly time-wise, you’ll be in prime time for capturing clear pictures of bright galaxies, stars, planets and more.
7. Plan Your Trip Accordingly
You’ll learn that planning your trip properly is one of the most important factors in astrophotography. Time of year, season, time of day/night, location, weather and even pollution can greatly affect how your pictures come out, among a number of other factors. For example, if you want to get quality photos of the Milky Way and you live in the UK, it’s best to do so in the summer. On the other hand, during the longer winter nights, it is best to focus on the bright stars. Be mindful of weather conditions and highly polluted areas – you obviously will get clearer shots in a less polluted, cloud-free sky.