Beautiful Moon, Show Me Your Craters!

A 5-minute photography lesson to getting detailed and sharp moon images!

The gift of photography:

We all know I love anything outdoor and nature photography, but did you know I especially love photographing celestial objects? Yep. 

In fact… (drum roll please)… if I could be anything other than a photographer, I think I might just try being an astronomer! 

“Astronomer: A scientist in the field of astronomy who focuses their studies on a specific question or field outside the scope of Earth” —Wikipedia

Doesn’t that sound interesting!

Lucky for us as photographers, photography can make us many things in addition to photographers. We find we have suddenly become biologists, meteorologists, conservationists, designers, chefs — all just to capture that perfect picture!

PhotoByMarisaMarulli_how to photography the moon

I’ve always been fascinated by our solar system, and I love photography for its ability to bring those millions-of-light-years-distant wonders right in front of our eyes.

Failed attempts to photograph the moon?

If any of you have tried to capture the moon, you’ve likely seen that your photograph depicts a fuzzy white ball of light with no detail - in fact this ball looks quite like the sun (minus the dark night sky)!

What went wrong? 

What really happened is that the moon is overexposed. Read on to learn why this happens and the quick fix to have you photographing the moon’s beauty in no-time!

Why is it a challenge to get a good moon image?

It’s always important to know *why* things behave the way they do.

The reason you have trouble getting a nice, detailed image of the moon is because your camera is exposing for the sky instead of the moon. The sky is very dark and the moon is very bright! Your camera tends to expose for the dark sky — meaning, it sees this very dark night as most of the information in the scene. So, it decides to dial your settings up to let in a lot more light. But that’s wrong! (Well, nothing is “wrong” in the art of photography, but that’s not what you want it do to on this particular shot!) Letting in more light will blow out (overexpose) your moon and it will be too bright to see any of the detail within it. This is why most of your images of the moon will look super blown out.


The solution for how to photograph the moon:

  • Set your camera up on a tripod

  • I like to try a nice telephoto lens like a 70-200

  • Put your camera in Manual mode

  • Set your aperture to f11

  • Set your shutter speed to around 1/125 or 1/250 

  • Set your ISO to 100-200

  • Now that your general settings are ready to go, you need to achieve focus on infinity (which is where the moon is). Don’t forget about this part! 

    • Switch your focus to manual mode

    • Go into “Live View” on your camera so that you are able to see your scene on your LCD screen in LIVE mode before taking the picture

    • Zoom into this Live View (yes, there are buttons for this) and scroll around until you can find the moon

    • Once you’ve found the moon, manually adjust your focal ring until you see the moon nice and sharp and detailed

    • Once you’ve achieved focus on the moon, be very careful not to knock your focus back out (keep checking it throughout the night to be sure you didn’t accidentally hit your focus ring and knock your image out of focus)

  • Fire away and be proud you finally did it!

For added bonus, be sure you’re using a 2-second timer on your trigger or a cable release. This way, when you push the button to expose, you won’t be vibrating your camera at all. This will reduce camera shake and ensure a nice sharp image!

What do YOU think?

Now tell me, if you could be anything other than a photographer, what would it be!? Also, tell me how this tutorial worked for you! 

Comments below!