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How to Take Pictures of Stars

How to Take Pictures of Stars

How to Take Pictures of Stars: A Newbie’s Information to Astrophotography

The How to Take Pictures of Stars Information is the product of collaboration between Kevin Choi from and Viktor Elizarov from

Sooner or later within the images journey, each photographer entertains the likelihood of stepping into astrophotography. However, for a lot of newbies, it’s a scary proposition as a result of of two main misconceptions.

How to Take Pictures of Stars: A Beginner’s Guide to AstrophotographyHow to Take Pictures of Stars: A Beginner’s Guide to Astrophotography


False impression One

The gear for astrophotography is prohibitively costly and, consequently, is out of attain for many rookies and hobbyists.

This was true even 5 to seven years in the past when a mixture of cameras succesful of producing high quality photographs at excessive ISO paired with a quick and large angle lens would value you anyplace from $four,000 to $5,000.

However, in recents years, issues have drastically modified. Speedy advances in sensor know-how permit us to use entry degree cameras from almost any producer to photograph the celebs. Additionally, third get together lens producers, principally these from Asia, lastly achieved the right stability between the standard of lenses and worth.

We’ll tackle the gear you want to photograph the celebs in nice element within the Gear part however, it’s value mentioning now which you could have all of the gear needed for astrophotography for underneath $1,000.

False impression Two

The second false impression is that the method of photographing the celebs is just too complicated for many rookies. That is utterly false. The astrophotography course of is definitely quite simple and easy. However, what makes the method extra time consuming than conventional panorama images is preparation and scouting.

How to Take Pictures of Stars - Astro Photography GuideHow to Take Pictures of Stars - Astro Photography Guide

What’s Astrophotography in Easy Phrases?

If you take a look at the sky at night time with a unadorned eye, you see solely the brightest stars and, even then, the brightest are nonetheless very dim.

Astrophotography permits us to amplify the brightness of the celebs by retaining the digital camera’s shutter open for an extended interval of time, which lets the digital camera sensor seize rather more mild than what’s attainable with our eyes. In consequence, astrophotography allows us to photograph stars that aren’t seen to the bare eye.


Although location is an important half of the astrophotography equation, there’s clearly no means to photograph stars with out the right gear.

There are 5 items of gear you want, however solely three are important.

1. Digital camera

You want a digital camera with guide controls that may produce respectable, high quality pictures at ISO 1600-3200. The excellent news is that the majority trendy cameras already fall beneath this class.

2. Lens

The Milky Means is unfold extensively throughout the sky and is a really dim topic. As a result of of this, you want a large and quick lens.

If you’d like to shoot the entire Milky Means in a single shoot, you will have a lens wider than 24mm on a full body digital camera or 18mm on APS-C.

For the aperture, f4 is sweet, f2.eight is nice, any lens with aperture quicker than f2.eight is superb.

three. Tripod

That is in all probability an important half of all the astrophotography setup. When utilizing a shutter velocity round 20-30 sec, even the slightest motion of the digital camera will break your pictures. Which means it isn’t sufficient to use simply any tripod, it’s important that it’s rock strong.

four. Headlamp

That is an elective piece of gear that may be changed with any commonplace flashlight.

5. Distant Shutter Launch

That is one other non-compulsory piece of gear. It may be changed by the two sec delay performance on most cameras.

Kevin’s Gear

Each the Nikon D810 and Canon 100D can produce nice high quality photographs even underneath ISO3200 however, of course, the Nikon D810 is best.

Viktor’s Gear

I’ve a minimalistic astrophotography setup.

I exploit a Sony a6000 digital camera and a Rokinon 12mm prime lens. I exploit a Feisol tripod which, by design, doesn’t have a middle column and is extremely regular even in windy circumstances.

Discovering the Milky Approach and the Darkish Sky

Once you begin studying how to photograph the celebs, the Milky Approach is often the primary and hottest object to shoot.

Nevertheless, it may be a problem to discover the Milky Method at the hours of darkness sky. Despite the fact that all of us stay within the Milky Means galaxy, most individuals by no means see it.

Earlier than going into the technical elements of capturing the Milky Means, it will be important that you simply first understand how to discover it.

How to take pictures of stars - The Milky WayHow to take pictures of stars - The Milky Way

Seasons of the Milky Means

Though the Milky Approach is all the time throughout Planet Earth, you see totally different elements of it relying on the totally different seasons and your location.

The most effective months to shoot the Milky Approach is all the time from March to September. Throughout this time, you’re able to photograph the Milky Method’s vibrant galactic middle.

You can even shoot the Milky Approach all through the remaining of the yr as a result of, even with out the galactic middle, you’ll be able to nonetheless create fascinating photographs.

Darkish Sky

One other issue that instantly impacts astrophotography is the darkish sky. The Milky Means is dim by itself so even the tiniest trace of mild could make it much less seen and tougher to photograph.

Mild air pollution and moonlight are two most important mild sources that have an effect on astrophotography probably the most.

Mild Air pollution

The place there are individuals, there’s mild. At night time, that is referred to as mild air pollution. As a result of of mild air pollution, it’s virtually unattainable to photograph the celebs within the center of the town.

One of the simplest ways to find areas with minimal mild air pollution is to examine this free on-line useful resource generally known as the Mild Air pollution Map. You will discover it right here: (

Moon Part

One other supply of mild that impacts the darkish sky and photographing the celebs is the moon. When there’s a full moon, it’s virtually unimaginable to seize any stars.

The perfect apply is to shoot throughout a brand new moon or to shoot earlier than the moon rises or after it units. By timing the moon good, you’ll be able to be sure that your digital camera is in a position to seize the best particulars of the Milky Approach.

To verify the moon part, you possibly can go to these web sites:

Kevin’s Scouting Routine

I usually examine the moon part and climate report first. If the day is sweet for capturing Milky Method, I’ll then examine StarWalk 2 to see what time I ought to exit. Then, I’ll head to some panorama images group on Fb and in addition 500px to discover some new location. If I discover an fascinating panorama location, principally dawn and sundown spot, I’ll then verify Google map to see if the place faces the Milky Means or not.

I like to go to location that no individuals have shot Milky Method earlier than to give myself a problem. If the climate turns all of a sudden cloudy, I nonetheless have probability to shoot a tremendous dawn or sundown.

Viktor’s Scouting Routine

My scouting routine begins with the usual set of instruments I exploit for my journey images planning. I exploit Google Maps, Google Earth and to discover fascinating places. I complement them with an android model of Star Stroll 2 when scouting particularly for astrophotography.


The primary problem of capturing the right picture of the celebs is to get the celebs as sharp as potential. Focusing turns into probably the most important half of the method. However, everyone knows how troublesome it’s to focus in full darkness.

It sounds easy—you all the time focus to infinity. In concept, all you will have to do is flip the focusing ring all the best way to the fitting. In actuality, nevertheless, this can focus past infinity on most lenses, which is completely illogical from a physics perspective. Focusing past infinity will produce out of focus and tender stars.

Listed here are a couple of totally different methods you should use to get the celebs in focus and sharp:

  • Whereas scouting in the course of the day, focus after which make marks in your lens as reminders.
  • Know precisely the place infinity is on each lens you personal. Discovering infinity could be extra problematic on a zoom lens since, for various focal lengths, infinity shall be somewhere else.
  • Take a number of check photographs and verify the sharpness of the celebs after each shot. Maintain adjusting the main target till you’ve gotten the right settings.

Viktor’s Focusing Routine

I’ve a really simplified focusing routine. I’ve just one lens devoted to astrophotography – a guide prime lens. I do know precisely the place infinity is on the lens however, to guarantee the right shot every time, I made a small mark on the lens as a reminder.

Kevin’s Focusing Routine

I exploit totally different focusing method with my 14-24mm zoom lens. I change digital camera to a stay view, zoom in to a most, discover a shiny star and concentrate on it.

How to take pictures of stars - CompositionHow to take pictures of stars - Composition

Capturing Method

As I discussed earlier, capturing is one of the simplest elements of the whole astrophotography course of. Why? Since you shouldn’t have a lot room or flexibility to experiment with a spread of totally different settings.

Let me clarify.

The sky is darkish and the celebs are dim. You employ the widest aperture attainable to seize that restricted mild.

The earth is consistently shifting, which limits your selection of shutter velocity values. For those who transcend a 25-30 sec shutter velocity, the impact of star trails turns into apparent which, in flip, makes the celebs gentle. I personally favor to by no means transcend a 25 sec publicity.

This leaves use with the one parameter we will mess around with – the ISO.

How to take pictures of stars - Shooting techniquesHow to take pictures of stars - Shooting techniques

When I’m on location, I’ve my digital camera in M (guide) mode. I set the aperture to (the widest worth on my lens), the shutter velocity to 25 sec and the ISO to 640. Then, I take a check shot. I preview the picture and analyze the histogram. Normally, these settings produce an underexposed picture so I begin growing the ISO and analyzing the preview after every shot till I’ve a correctly uncovered picture. From that second on, I hold capturing with the identical settings for the remaining of the night time.

The shutter velocity of 25 seconds is just not a perfect worth. To get sharper stars, I choose to shoot between 15 and 20 seconds, however I even have to stability this with the ISO worth by not going past ISO3200. I discover that even ISO3200 is a bit an excessive amount of for the Sony a6000 APS-C sensor.

Maybe crucial facet of capturing is that you simply all the time shoot in RAW.

Composition in Astrophotography

Even when you’ve got all of your gear prepared, you already know precisely the place to discover the Milky Means and you realize precisely what settings to use to photograph the night time sky, this doesn’t mechanically gaurantee that it is possible for you to to produce fascinating pictures. Astrophotography is not any totally different than some other sort of images as it isn’t sufficient to have all of the technical points in place. The inventive half all the time comes into play.

For those who merely photograph the sky, your pictures will seem like sky charts and, whereas they could be technically sound, they’ll doubtless be boring. You want to discover a means to deliver different parts in addition to the sky into your composition. The weather of a scene can function reference factors for the viewer to emphasize the size of the sky.

If you end up capturing at night time within the pitch black, it’s typically troublesome to visualize your potential compositions; typically, it isn’t even attainable to see the objects of the scene.

I like to recommend addressing the composition facet of your astrophotography shoot through the day if you find yourself scouting the scene. You’ll be able to take your time with out dashing to assess the composition. If you return to the situation at night time, composition turns into a easy technicality – a easy course of of triggering the shutter.

How to take pictures of stars - EditingHow to take pictures of stars - Editing

Modifying in Astrophotography

The modifying half of astrophotography isn’t any extra difficult than typical panorama modifying. The one exception is that you simply all the time have to cope with extreme noise.

Right here is an easy define of modifying in astrophotography:

Balancing Publicity

Earlier than you begin making use of any results, you first want to stability and regulate the publicity. If you take footage of the sky, they often come out a bit underexposed. Subsequently, it is best to improve the publicity of the picture till you attain a correctly uncovered starry sky with the Milky Means.

How to Take Pictures of Stars GuideHow to Take Pictures of Stars Guide

Unique Unprocessed RAW

How to Take Pictures of Stars GuideHow to Take Pictures of Stars Guide

Adjusted Publicity

White Stability

The subsequent step is to regulate the white stability. If you take image of stars in AWB (auto white stability) mode, the digital camera usually produces a really heat toned picture.

Since pictures of the night time sky are naturally very darkish, it’s troublesome to determinate if the white stability is right or not. However, you possibly can all the time use a way referred to as the “Extreme Saturation Method” to modify the white stability.

Excessive Saturation Technique

First, improve the vibrarance and saturation all the best way up to 100. Your picture will turn into over saturated and have some onerous shade transition.

Don’t fear, you possibly can change it again later.

How to Take Pictures of Stars GuideHow to Take Pictures of Stars Guide

Boosted Saturation

Subsequent, regulate the white stability by enjoying with each the temperature and tint sliders so as to obtain a great stability of colour transition. You must have some yellow within the middle of the Milky Means and blue within the sky.

Adjusted White BalanceAdjusted White Balance

Adjusted White Stability

Lastly, change the vibrance and the saturation again to zero. With the right white stability, your picture now seems extra pure.

Normal SaturationNormal Saturation

Regular Saturation

The remaining is your ordinary modifying changes. Increase the distinction and readability, improve the saturation and vibrance till you’ve gotten a picture with a vibrant sky and superbly contrasted stars.

Ultimate Picture

Noise Discount

Capturing the night time sky at a excessive ISO (1600-3200) sometimes leads to a picture with extreme noise. By growing the distinction and saturation through the modifying course of, you find yourself amplifying the digital noise much more.

Begin decreasing the noise through the use of the Particulars panel in Lightroom. In case you discover it isn’t potential to obtain the specified outcomes, you probably want to use a devoted noise discount program.

Kevin’s Favourite Noise Discount Program

Noise discount is the important half of astrophotography.

The quantity of noise discount is totally different within the starry sky and the foreground. I exploit Nik Dfine to get the job achieved. It permit me to create layer masks to give totally different diploma of noise discount in several space.

Viktor’s Favourite Noise Discount Program

I exploit Topaz DeNoise from Topaz Labs each day. I run noise discount with DeNoise on each single picture I edit. It turns into essential when modifying astro photographs.