How to better photograph the stars...

I get asked all the time, "How do I take photos of the stars?"

My answer typically includes some rhetoric about life being awesome and then dives right into an in depth response similar to the following;

There's a good bit of thinking that goes into it. It's so easy to point your camera at the skies and hope for the best. It's actually more simple than you'd think. First things first, you've got to escape the light pollution that most cities radiate. It is possible to capture the stars with some city glow in the shot but if you truly want an outstanding shot of the stars you've typically got to escape the city and go for the hills. In the following shot you can see just how many stars are out, but you can also see light pollution, radiating from the house, the neighbors, and the city of Bellingham, WA in the distance. Bellingham WABellingham WA It all starts with a good foundation, your camera doesn't necessarily need to be nice or new. But you've got to know what to do with it.

If your camera has capability of shooting in manual mode, we're good. A tripod is a must in most cases. Also a lens with a wider angle is typically preferred. There are three components that go into your photograph, exposure time, f/stop or aperture, and ISO.

FSTOP/Aperture is typically a number between f1.2-45. It's the depth of field, meaning your focal point. If you have a higher Fstop, you will focus on very many things in the frame where as if you had a very low focal point, your camera will focus on one object thus blurring out anything behind or in front of it.

If you don't have either, you can make do with what you've got. 

In the following photograph I was using an 18-200mm but was zoomed all the way out and used the Bulb setting paired with my wireless remote to have a 20 minute shot. In order to avoid over exposing my photograph I had to be sure the fstop was all the way up which would help maximize that detail and depth of field along with bringing the earth's rotation to life. This shot reflects the earth moving and the stars are stationary. Since me, the camera and tripod are on the earth and we take a photo for 20 minutes in time, the highlights from the stars seem to drag across the sky. StarLapseStarLapseThere are two methods most commonly used to get a similar shot to this. Having a long exposure helps to drag the highlights that are in the shot. This was a 20 minute photograph that brought the stars to look like a starlapse. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get the right composition, colors, and photo variables. This same shot can be done with multiple photographs stacked with photoshop. I prefer taking long exposures, less post processing is better in my opinion. The next shot displays what happens when you don't have a tripod, use rocks to hold your camera still and only have about 3 seconds of stability...I used a low aperture and a higher ISO to compensate for only having 3 seconds of exposure time. That is why the photo is noisy and not crisp around the edges when compared to a high aperture photo. For a good amount of my star shots, aperture is the most important component. If you base your shot on aperture, your iso can stay low to bring in natural light and you can show a true hd photograph. If you can focus on the stars and don't want to have the stars lights drag, go to a low aperture so that you can have a shorter exposure time. I like to use a 10mm lens at 3.5 aperture or 20mm at 2.8 fstop. Wide angle lenses help show just how big the sky really is...

StarLapseStarLapseThere are two methods most commonly used to get a similar shot to this. Having a long exposure helps to drag the highlights that are in the shot. This was a 20 minute photograph that brought the stars to look like a starlapse. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get the right composition, colors, and photo variables. This same shot can be done with multiple photographs stacked with photoshop. I prefer taking long exposures, less post processing is better in my opinion. While ISO increases highlight colors, it also can show noise in some photos, having just the right amount is key. I try staying below 1600 if possible. StarLapseStarLapseThere are two methods most commonly used to get a similar shot to this. Having a long exposure helps to drag the highlights that are in the shot. This was a 20 minute photograph that brought the stars to look like a starlapse. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get the right composition, colors, and photo variables. This same shot can be done with multiple photographs stacked with photoshop. I prefer taking long exposures, less post processing is better in my opinion. When you have long exposure shots it allows you to color with highlights, this one a glow stick. The subject is best captured when still, very still. StarLapseStarLapseThere are two methods most commonly used to get a similar shot to this. Having a long exposure helps to drag the highlights that are in the shot. This was a 20 minute photograph that brought the stars to look like a starlapse. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get the right composition, colors, and photo variables. This same shot can be done with multiple photographs stacked with photoshop. I prefer taking long exposures, less post processing is better in my opinion. Sometimes when people walk through the long exposure shot you end up getting weird shaped forms appearing in the frame... StarLapseStarLapseThere are two methods most commonly used to get a similar shot to this. Having a long exposure helps to drag the highlights that are in the shot. This was a 20 minute photograph that brought the stars to look like a starlapse. Sometimes it takes multiple attempts to get the right composition, colors, and photo variables. This same shot can be done with multiple photographs stacked with photoshop. I prefer taking long exposures, less post processing is better in my opinion. For this next shot we used a combination of flashlights and light up frisbees. Practice makes perfect.
Long ExposureLong Exposure When scrolling through these photographs I'm sure you can notice how some shots are very noisy in the shadows. That can easily be avoided if your camera has capacity to shoot in RAW. This will allow you to expose the shadows without bringing noise and grain into the shot. Shooting in RAW can be very useful for clients who want consistently clean shots. If you want your shots to be professional grade, try shooting in raw and processing with Adobe programs. Most cameras have a jpeg+RAW setting so you can have the copy of both photographs.

Go play with your cameras and show me what you get!

Keefe CarneyKeefe Carney

 

Thanks for reading

-Austin Marvel


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