How to Photograph the Moon with a DSLR

By Tim Trott, 20th January 2014 in Astrophotography

Find out how to photograph the Moon with your DSLR camera and a small telescope and capture amazing views of the Moon.
 

There is nothing quite like the sight of a waxing crescent Moon hanging in the evening twilight sky - the classic Moon shape beloved of movie makes and artists alike. Photographing the Moon is one of the simplest targets you can find in the nights sky, but this guide will show you how to get the best shots with your DSLR.

The best areas of the Moon to photograph are along the terminator - the line that separates lunar day and lunar night. Along this line lunar features are most visible due to low angle between the Moon and the Sun which creates long shadows over the lunar surface.

You will need a T-mount adaptor to couple your DSLR to your telescope in order to photograph the Moon. These are fairly inexpensive and can usually be got for around £15. They are specific to certain brands of camera, so if you have a Canon DSLR you will need an adaptor ring for Canon cameras. You will also need a barrel that will slide into your telescope focuser. These are generic and screw into the adaptor ring. You can also add a neutral density or variable polariser filter to the barrel as you would an eyepiece. Adding a filter also has the benefit of sealing the insides of the camera from dust and moisture.

Once you have your camera setup and ready to go, you need to do the same for your telescope. This includes polar alignment if you are wanting to track the Moon for any length of time.

Now that everything is setup, insert your DSLR into your telescope and tighten the restraining screws. I think it is also a good idea to wrap the camera strap around the guide scope, just in case the camera should fall loose.

Moon in Live View
Moon in Live View
Once secured, set the camera's ISO to a low setting, say 100-200 and focus the camera as accurately as possible. I find it helpful to use a hartmann mask and a high magnification to aid focusing.

The exposure setting will vary depending on your telescope, but as a starting point try 1/200 second. Take a test shot and and view the image. The Moon should be bright, but not over expose and not contain any pure white. If the shot is overexposed decrease the exposure time, if its not exposed enough increase it.

 

Moon Exposure Settings

When you have found the optimal exposure setting, you need to either use a remote shutter release or the camera self timer. This is because when you release the shutter, you introduce tiny vibrations into the camera and telescope. These are magnified by the optics and introduce blur to the image. The remote shutter release or self timer will allow you to take the picture without physically touching the camera.

Take plenty of shots as atmospherics can affect the quality of the images. The more you take, the better the chance of a great shot. Once you have some good shots of the moon, why not try increasing the exposure to 0.25 or 0.5 seconds and see if you can capture some Earthshine. Earthshine is light reflected from the Earth surface visible on the Moon's night side.
Earthshine

You can view my photos of the Moon in the Lunar gallery.

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