Learning how to photograph the moon is a gateway niche to astro photography. It’s easy to do and doesn’t require as much equipment as star or Milky way photography.
This article will take you through how to photograph the moon. We’ll look at settings, gear, techniques, and tips used by professionals to help you get the best results.
The Best Gear for Moon Photography
You only need a handful of tools when photographing the moon. Below is a list of the essential items you’ll need as well as a few affordable alternatives.
To capture your first moon picture, you should use a DSLR or mirrorless system. APS-C and micro four-thirds cameras are perfect because of their cropped sensor.
A 300 mm telephoto lens on a APS-C camera body will give the same field of view (FOV) as a 480mm lens on a full-frame camera. On a micro four-thirds camera, the same lens will give a FOV equal to that of a 600mm on full-frame.
A notable exception to the DSLR/mirrorless rule are cameras like the P900. This camera has a zoom lens equivalent to a 2000+ mm lens on a full-frame camera.
With the cropped cameras and P900, you will quickly fill the frame with a small part of the lunar surface.
You can use the kit lens that comes with your camera when taking photos of night landscapes with the moon in the background. But you need to be aware that it doesn’t have the magnifying power required to shoot close-up shots of the moon.
Now you must be asking, how do I make the moon look bigger in pictures?
The simple answer is by using a telephoto lens . Think of it as a big telescope that allows you to see everything up close. You can find so many options for your camera out there with various levels of magnification.
So what’s the optimal lens to pick for moon photography? You need to find one with a focal length of, at least, 300mm. Thankfully, the moon is so bright that you do not need fast, expensive, telephoto lenses. Anything with an aperture of f/5.6 or f/8 will do.
For a DSLR, we recommend the EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 or EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM. You can’t go wrong with Olympus MSC ED-M 75 to 300mm II or Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 lenses for micro four-thirds systems.
If you don’t own a telephoto lens, legacy lenses such as the FD 300 f/5.6 are viable options to costs.
Another cheap option is to add a tele converter (TC). This nifty tool is an optical element which you can couple with the lens and the camera to increase the focal length.
It is essential to use a TC designed for the lens you want to use.
However, TCs reduce the amount of recorded light. A 1.4x TC will reduce your exposure by 1-stop, and a 2x TC will two stops.
If you are serious about moon photography and are willing to invest, then consider super-telephoto lenses. They are between 400mm and 800mm. They are the best options. Their level of magnification lets you capture the details of the lunar surface. The only downside is that they can be expensive. Their average price runs between 1000 to tens of thousands of dollars.