How to Photograph the Moon

Aside from the sun and the earth, it’s hard to think of a more timeless subject than the moon. And tonight's version—hailed by astronomers as significantly larger and brighter than usual—will go down in history as one of the year's most stellar images. But how exactly does one photograph the moon?

Well, shooting a good photo can be more difficult than you think. That's because, unlike most photographs, which involve shooting an object illuminated by the sun or an overhead lamp, this one requires you to capture a subject that is itself a source of light. Yes, technically, that's sunlight reflecting off the moon, but it's very, very bright.

3. Shoot with a long optical zoom: While smartphones are handy, you'll see a dramatic difference when you use a camera with a long zoom lens. Look at the shot above, which I took with my iPhone. The moon looks like a dot in the night sky above Peconic Bay in Greenport, Long Island. By contrast, the other photos in the story were shot with superzoom point-and-shoots featuring long optical zoom lenses.

4. Experiment with the exposure settings: Some digital cameras actually have a moon scene mode that optimizes the settings for you. If you don't own one of those, set the camera on manual and play around with different apertures and ISO settings. I generally keep the shutter speed constant, at around 1/125th or 1/250th of second, to minimize camera shake and vibration. However, I did use a much slower speed to capture the reddish tone of the "blood" moon below, which is why the image is a bit soft on detail.

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5. Take lots and lots of photos. It may take awhile to find the ideal settings, so be patient and keep shooting. When at last you hit on the right image, you'll be happy you stuck with it.

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