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Jim Jensen

A question about shooting the moon.

15 posts in this topic

So tonight I thought I would read through my camera owners manual to try learn how to shoot pictures of the moon. I am looking forward to upgrading to a better camera one day but I need to learn to use this one first. My question is, do I need some sort of lens filter to block the light in order to get a detailed picture of the moon? My camera (Panasonic DMC fz-18) has a setting for shooting a starry sky and that is the setting I used. As you can see by the picture there is to much light to see any detail. Or is it just not possible for my camera to take pictures like this? I must say I was impressed with the picture taking ability. I took it at about eleven thirty PM and it almost looks like day time. Also there are stars in the picture that I couldn't see with my naked eye.

P1040323.jpg

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Jim, your camera's meter is trying to get a mid-range exposure, which it always tries for, and that is why the picture looks nearly like daytime and the moon is blown out.

Check your owner's manual for whether the camera has exposure compensation or will work on manual exposure settings. I suspect it has one or both features. If it has exposure compensation or manual exposure settings, you'll want to underexpose in steps until you get to the point where the surroundings are very dark and you can see detail in the moon.

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I have an older Panasonic Lumix that has manual settings and E.C. With live view, you can see the difference, as you're under exposing. Never rely on built in scene settings to give you the photo you desire. Experiment with different settings and shoot lots of pictures. Digital film is cheap. grin Also, you'll want a narrower aperture (higher number) for better depth of field. This will also give you a slower shutter speed, so a tripod is recommended.

Good luck and have fun.

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Okay I found the exposure compensation settings and I also found the aperture settings. I am looking forward to trying again tonight. Thanks Steve amd Mike for the information.

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My camera (Panasonic DMC fz-18) has a setting for shooting a starry sky and that is the setting I used.

There is the problem, the moon is very bright, not dark like a stary sky is. It seems wrong at first, but you need a fairly fast shutter speed to shoot the moon, especially a bright full moon.

The FZ18 has full manual settings, if it's clear tonight try something like this:

1/320

F/8

ISO 100

For more detailed/interesting shots you'll want to wait a week or two though, the full moon is going to look pretty flat. At 3/4 to 1/2 moon the craters throw a lot of shadows which I think look a lot more interesting.

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Thanks all of you, I was out trying to get the moon right at moon rise on the night before. It was an entirely different time of night(7:50ish), but I did use ISO 100 with a -2/3 exposure compensation, I was able to get more moon detail but had a slo-o-o-o-w shutter speed. Fortunately I did have a tri-pod. Should I be going to Manual so I can control all settings? I have to admit I have never used Manual yet. Not far enough in my Exposure Workshop book, I guess. Don't I still have to do some kind of metering or can I set any combination I want and go for it? It was a gorgeous moon out there last night, 'Fishing Jim', good for you for getting out there to enjoy it.

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Sarah, I forget which Canon body you have, but check your manual and switch to spot metering (or center-weighted metering if you don't have spot). Then just make sure the center focus point is on the moon and the meter will get you close to the right exposure. Check on the camera back for blinkies (make sure to have the highlight alert feature activated), and if you have blinkies, keep using the EC in increments, underexposing 1/3 stop at a time until the blinkies disappear.

Otherwise, switch to manual exposure mode and start at the settings John provided. In most cases I've been able to expose the moon well without needing really slow shutter speeds. I only stop down one or two stops at most, not because the situation calls for more depth of focus (it doesn't), but because all lenses are at their sharpest stopped down a couple stops, and when shooting the moon at long range I want to get the best sharpness possible out of the lens.

You'll still want to shoot from a tripod, and if you don't have a remote shutter release just use the camera's self timer. If your shutter speeds are from 1/30 to about 2 seconds, you'll want to enable the mirror-lockup feature, which is explained in the manual. This eliminates the slight tremble induced by mirror slap when the shutter trips, which at that range of shutter speeds can introduce vibration enough to render the image soft. Faster than 1/30 and the slap isn't enough to hurt the image. At 2 seconds or faster, the tiny amount of time the camera is trembling from shutter slap is dwarfed by the sharp remainder of the seconds-long exposure, and on balance the image will look tack sharp.

When shooting the moon, exposures of 3 or more seconds can produce softness anyway because while your camera and tripod are not moving at all, the moon is, and a few seconds is enough (if the moon is framed tightly enough) for its movement to blur things a bit.

Here's one from last year with exif data so you have a start at settings with an actual example. You'll note even at iso100 and f9 that a shutter speed of 1/80 made a tripod a good thing to have but that mirror lockup and a remote release or self timer weren't necessary. I'd imagine you could ignore my previous advice about meter changes and stuff and duplicate these settings in manual exposure mode and get pretty darn close to where you want to be.

moon-exif.jpg

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Thank you! I will try it again. I have some of the markings, but just not tack sharp. I did use the timer, but was shooting at 1/6 and 1/4. I have read the mirror lock directions, but will get them out for a refresher. I have used spot metering and center weighted and have blinkies enabled should I need to meter. Thanks.

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This first picture was taken with settings recommended by JohnK.

1/320

F/8

ISO 100

At least a hundred times better than my picture last night but a little dark.

P1040350.jpg

This second picture I changed the F number to 4.2 to try to get a little brighter moon.

P1040361.jpg

Steve, your picture of the moon is much whiter/grayer. Does that have to do with the atmosphere or is that something I can change with camera settings?

Thanks again for the help. Learning to use this camera is great fun.

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Nicely done Jim, sometimes a little trial and error is needed to get just the shot you want. If you reduced the shutter speed and/or opened the aperture up (smaller F number) a little you would have gotten a bit brighter shot, closer to Steves. It could be the atmosphere, there were some shots of a really orange moon a couple of days ago, or yours might just be a little darker.

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Guys here is what you can use as an easy starting guide to photographing a FULL moon and this is for a full moon only but will give you a starting point for other moon phases as well. Simply put, the correct exposure for an object lit by bright sun, the full moon is just that, can be a shutter speed of 1/the ISO you're using, with an aperture of f/16. This to us old guys is known as the sunny 16 rule!

For example, if you're using an ISO of 400, a good starting point for a correct exposure of the moon would be f/16 at 1/400s. If you are using ISO 100 at f16 then a shutter speed of 1/100s is a good starting point. You can use any combination of lower aperture, higher or lower shutter speed and so on to keep the exposure the same. As always with these shots you should bracket your exposures.

The different colors of the moon are dependent on how low to the horizon it is. The lower the moon the more red its color due to atmospheric scattering from dust and haze of the light. All the smoke in the atmosphere from the California fires and the fact it is harvest time (dust from field work) is giving you the orange moon and colorful sunsets the last week or so. This also cuts down on the light so you may need slower shutter speeds, more wide open aperture or higher ISO to compensate for the first numbers I mentioned.

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Ok I just walked outside and photographed the moon to show you the above settings will get you close. I took one shot at ISO 100, f16, 1/100s hand held with the 300/2.8. Looked good in my viewfinder but loaded it on my laptop and it was just slightly underexposed. Opening the aperture to around f11 or so would likely be perfect, this is of course why its important to bracket. I noticed the moon is not quite full so that little bit could easily affect the settings as well. I did brighten the image just slightly with levels in photoshop to compensate for the little bit less light from the the waning moon but as you can see it was easy to bring the brightness back and retain details.

641667126_4Dbv6-L.jpg

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Nice job, Jim. Good answers to your questions, too.

I should note that in my example above I was overexposed about one full stop, and had just a few blown highlights in the moon that I recovered in photoshop. I did that on purpose (I often do) so the mid-range and shadow areas in an image have less noise. Noise is not really an issue on the 5D, especially at iso100, but it had gotten to be a habit.

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Jim,I will only chime in to say that even a $20 tripod from Wal-Mart is enough to steady a point and shoot camera for moon shots.

The FZ18 should have the ability to turn off the anti shake mechanism [which you should do if using a tripod] the camera should also have a timer on the shutter release so you don't have to touch the camera at all when it fires.

My best advise would be:use a tripod,get it all set in manual mode with a few test shots,then set the auto timer on the shutter and fire a few frames above and below what looks good on your camera's LCD. If the brightness of your camera's LCD doesn't match up with your computer's screen brightness too good,it can fool you.

I can almost smell your photography addiction being born. grin

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