Photographing the Moon Made Simple

Tips on how to take better photos of the moon plus a gallery of amazing and inspiring moon photography.

Curated by Jason Kravitz
January 16, 2011

Photographing the moon can be challenging. Even before digital photography, photographers used tricks like double exposures to get the perfect moon into their composition.

With the right timing, technique, and equipment, it is possible to create some out of this world images of the moon and surrounding landscapes.

Landscape photographer Don Smith, one of several photographers featured in this gallery, has some excellent tips for photographing the moon.

Find a good location where you can observe the moon rising near foreground elements.

Whether in nature, or the city, look for interesting trees, mountains, people, buildings, statues or other unique elements to frame the moon.

Because the moon is far away from the earth and the foreground of the image, it is difficult to get both the foreground and moon in focus in one frame. Take a mix of photos with the moon in focus and the foreground in focus to see which looks best for the scene.

The best time to shoot a full moonrise is the day prior to the actual full moon because the rise time is often close to sunset.

Shooting the moon close to sunset/sunrise is preferred because the light values in the scene, from the bright moon to the foreground elements, are all within 6 stops of light. While newer cameras have a very high dynamic range capable of even more variance, this is still a good zone for most modern cameras.

The size of the moon always looks big on the horizon as there are scale and depth clues available from the surrounding terrain, thus creating an illusion of size. This has been proven in research and is termed the Ponzo Illusion.

Using a telephoto lens (300mm or longer for example), it is best to find a vantage point some distance away from the foreground object to give the impression of a larger moon in the frame.

Although many other types of compositions can be created using a wider angle with a variety of foreground elements.

TOPICS: technique inspiration

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