Ever thought about photographing the night sky or the stars? These are a few tips and techniques to improve your shots:

Get Rural

Large towns and cities produce light pollution domes, these are not particularly desirable, moving away will  solve this problem.

Take Sample Shots

Your eyes will not be able to see all of the stars or formations in the night sky, taking sample shots is a great way to find a good subject.

  • Auto Focus – Off
  • Focus – Infinite
  • ISO – Max
  • Apature – Wide
  • Exposure – 10 to 30 seconds

These pictures will not look great, but they should help you navigate around the sky

Know where the big features are

Use a Program like Stellarium to find out where the big, important constellations are. This will enable you to know what you are photographing. Popular features are other planets in our solar system, such as Jupiter or Saturn

Don’t Forget the foreground

Adding a foreground to your pictures can really make a difference; I adds detail and can make the photo more interesting. The kind of thing to add are mountains or water.

Final Setup

Once you have found your subject, and have it squarely in your viewfinder use the following setup to ensure bright stars and a good image to work with

  • Shoot Raw – You may have to do some extra work, but viscous noise cancelling from a camera can really kill the details
  • ISO – Again this should be high 2000 to 4000 is ideal for brightness, turn down if there is too much noise in the image
  • Exposure – Keep this long, however there is a way to determine the optimal exposure time: take 600 and divide it by the focal length. So If my focal length is 20, then I can expose for 30 seconds before the stars start to leave trails.

Attribution: Many thanks to Ben Canales, who supplied information and inspiration for this post. Check out his work at: http://www.thestartrail.com

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