How To Photograph Moonscapes

moon rising over mountain in dessert

Moonlit landscapes are some of the most gorgeous in the world, and capturing their beauty on camera is a challenge that’s worth the work.

Whether you’re looking for shots of a cityscape by moonlight or want to capture the tranquility of nature at night, there are just a few simple tips and tricks that can help you get it just right.

Moonscape Camera

If you’re looking to photograph the moon, you’ll need a camera with a manual mode. DSLRs and advanced digital cameras are ideal for this type of photography because they allow you to adjust settings like focus, ISO and aperture.

Check out my guides for nature cameras and night photography cameras.

What size lens do I need for moon photography?

Lenses are measured in millimeters and, for moon shots, the bigger the better. The best time to shoot is when there’s a full moon; at this point, you can get some really nice shots with a focal length of between 200-600 mm.

Shooting the moon is a very different type of photography compared with shooting city landscapes. The camera will be using shutter speeds for moonlit shots that are much slower than those you’d use during the day, typically between 30 seconds to one minute. The longer shutter speed will allow in more light, which will make for sharper photos.

You’ll also want a good zoom lens that can be used in low light settings. Zoom lenses will let you capture everything from wide city views to close-up shots of tiny details like plants or water droplets on flowers.

Camera Settings For Moonscapes

Always shoot on manual mode and enable the camera’s highest possible settings in order to achieve sharp photos of the moon’s surface. If you’re shooting the landscape by moonlight, try and focus on the closest parts of the scene first.

Focusing on distant landmarks, like your house and even your car, can result in blurry photos. A faster aperture (f/2.8 or higher), ISO to 400 or 800 and a wide angle lens are also ways to get more light into your scene.

What’s The Best Time To Shoot Moonscapes?

Landscapes lit by moonlight can be shot any time of the year. Nights around the full moon, however, are some of the best. The full moon is typically closest to the earth on the 29th day of each month.

The ratio between light and dark is also an important factor to consider when shooting moonlit landscapes. This can make a huge difference in how you shoot your photos. Generally, you want to shoot wide angles that limit the depth of field; this will give you sharply focused images with minimal blur.

How do you photograph a full moon landscape?

Use the recommended camera and lens and grab a tripod.

The best time to shoot a landscape is when the moon first appears in the sky. It will take about 30 minutes for it to climb halfway up its zenith. At that point, you’ll be able to photograph it in its entirety across the sky.

Once it’s night, you can walk around your property, shooting whatever catches your eye and makes you want to stop and snap a photo.

If you’re traveling for your moonscape shots, you should scout out good landscapes before it’s time to shoot. Know what you want to capture so you can setup when it’s time to capture your shot. You can use some location scouting tools like Google Earth to plan out your next moon shot.

Moonscape Photography Tips and Tricks

If you’re looking for a few tricks to help you when photographing the moon, check out our list below.

  1. Use a wide aperture, not a telephoto lens, and shoot early in the night.
  2. Use a tripod.
  3. Use a wide angle lens, often a 16-35mm f/2.8 zoom so that you have a large amount of field of view when shooting.
  4. Use ISO 400 or higher. You can usually get away with as high as 800 for night photography without too many issues.
  5. Try to shoot from a low point on the ground if you can and get close to the subject matter for your shot.
  6. Be patient and wait for the right light. To get a nice shot, you’ll want it to be a bright night. Don’t take photos when there’s too much cloud cover or the moon is in hiding behind trees, buildings or other obstructions. Using a flash can also ruin your shot by washing out the colors of your landscape and highlighting any raindrops on leaves or raindrops on water.

How do you make the moon look big in pictures?

If you’re looking for a few ways to make the moon look big in your pictures, check out our list below.

Use a wide angle lens, and shoot at f/8 or higher.

Use a tripod; it’ll also help keep the moon’s shape steady.

Use the highest ISO setting your camera allows, which is usually between 800 and 3200 for most cameras. This will help prevent blur and keep the shutter speed higher longer.

Increase the aperture as much as your camera allows. The bigger the aperture, the bigger the moon will look in your photo.

Consider using a wide angle lens, which will allow you to capture more of the full moon in your photo.

Can you photograph stars with a full moon?

If you can capture a nice shot of the moon in the sky, you’re well on your way to photographing stars as well. The only difference between shooting stars and shooting the moon is that most people want to hide the outline of the moon in their star photos.

Just be aware that when photographing stars, there will be less light available in your scene. This can mean a slower shutter speed and higher ISO settings.

How To Photograph A Moon Trail

Moon trails happen when the moon passes through a layer of air that refracts its light, making it look like it is moving. If you’re looking for a few tricks to help you when photographing moon trails, check out our list below.

Use a wide angle lens, and set your ISO to 800 or higher. This will keep the shutter speed high longer because there’s less air obstructing your shot.

Plan in advance what your shot will be of the moon passing through this particular layer of air.

Shoot at a low-to-medium angle towards the horizon. You don’t want to get your subject too close to the moon because then the moon’s shape will be distorted in your shot.

Conclusion

The moon is the piece of our night sky that most people think of first. As an amateur photographer, you may already have several pictures of the moon in your collection, especially if you’re an avid night-time photographer! To create more amazing photos of the moon, there are a few suggestions for enhancing your images:

Keep it simple . Even if you want to experiment with special effects and editing software to enhance your photos, consider starting with something simple like an exposure and composition that will showcase the stars’ beauty.

Once you have that mastered start experimenting for more interesting shots!