So You Want To Capture A Star
Updated: Jun 15, 2018
So its dark outside…you like the stars, I like the stars. You want to capture them in a digital image..your camera is pointed at the sky, your hands are freezing (ok this story is set in winter) and you go to take that majestic AF star photo and BAM….nothing but a mess of blurry dots or even worse..NOTHING at all!
This was me and my first attempt at shooting the night sky. It was cold…dark as hell and I was by myself wondering if this image was really worth it (shortly after I made Nicholas sit with me. What a trooper!).
It was then that I finally put a little bit of effort into trying to learn how to capture the stars…and something other than a blip of messes turned out on my screen..to which I thought,
“This ain’t so bad after all.”
Ha just kidding…I was like F**K YES!!! Sold for life on it! There they were, 1,000's of the little guys.
I was instantly enamored with astrophotography, yes that is the technical term for us photo nerds and if you’re still reading this, then you must be one too 😊
So lets get down to brass tacks and this is what you need to start at minimum:
2.) A Wireless camera, a remote tethering set up or if you’d rather spend your money on an
In-N-Out burger rather than what is mentioned then just set your cameras 10 second timer when you’re ready to shoot. You're basically trying not to touch the button with your finger.
3.) Lens with a wide aperture (f/2.8 or less is better but not totally necessary)
4.) Cup of coffee or hot chocolate. You're standing still at night, your body temp drops.
Check the weather or access the app “Star Walk” and know what you want to shoot. Look at where the Milky Way is and even what phase the moon is in.
Full moon= No good
New moon= yesssss.
Step 2: Find your coveted location (you've planned this out right?), and set up your tripod. If it is windy hang a bean bag or anything heavy that will attached to the hook at the bottom of your tripod.
Step 3: Camera’s on and ready to go…time to work with the settings. Depending on your focal length of the lens will determine how long your shutter can stay open (long exposures people, you’ve heard of this before!).
For now, here is a quick and dirty shutter speed guide to start (ask me why later!):
14mm= 25 seconds
24mm= 20 seconds
35mm= 10-15 seconds
Set your aperture to the widest setting it will go to let in as much light as humanly possible.
Set your ISO to at least 3200…6400 if you have a full frame camera.
If you are like..ISO huh? WHAT the heck is she saying? Then it is time to put in some time learning some camera basics…hmm next blog perhaps?
Step 4: Turn on your LCD screen on the back of the camera and use the shutter speed or ISO button to brighten your screen to find the stars.
Zoom in as far as it will go to help yourself find one, just one..of the brightest stars out there. That is going to be how you get the entire image in focus in the end.
From here, set your lens on “manual” and turn off the “IS” button if you have one. Use your new found manual focusing skills to hone in on that bad boy until the bright star is a bright, clear circular dot.
Step 5: Slowly back out with the zoom button and reset your shutter speed and ISO to what you want them to be (see recommendations above).
Step 6: Now you’re ready to make the image!
MOST IMPORTANTLY: You have to pick one of the ways mentioned above to take the photo with out touching the button yourself. You will get camera shake..and then head shaking will ensue..and shaky images…a whole mess of shake going on. Sad face.
Get that button pressed, close your eyes and pray that something magical AF just happened! Because I’m sure it did!
If you do happen get a dark screen, or too bright image then either
A.) You didn’t listen to a damn word I said! (#smileyface)
B.) You’re working with a different set up and you need to ask me questions!
In reality, one of the best things about photography is actually the journey and not the final image…check those settings and just..PLAY!
Here in the image below, I chose to keep the stars super light and let the forest in the foreground be the focal point...dream it up..do it up...Just do something.
Thanks for tuning in.