Many photographers have difficulty taking photos of the milky way. Over the years I’ve learned some simple tricks to capture great photos of the stars. This tutorial covers the basic star photography tips.
Night Photography Tips: Camera Settings
Shutter speed – 30 seconds I find is the ‘sweet spot’ for capturing good quality night photos. A 30-second shutter speed with a professional tripod in order to keep the camera stable. I find that if you use a shutter speed that is too long, stars can tend to appear oblong due to the Earth’s rotation. Configuring the shutter speed at 30 seconds makes the stars look just the same as your view.
However, the only time that I adjust the shutter settings for night shots is when I take pictures of the stars that aren’t star trails. The longer the lens used, the shorter your shutter speed timing. If you shoot with a crop sensor camera using an 18mm lens, I’d recommend using a shutter speed greater than 15 or 20 seconds, as the stars will appear larger in the frame, so the streaking is more noticeable in your final shot.
Aperture – f/2.8: Usually you will need a high aperture for landscape photography to achieve maximum depth-of-field. Novice photographers tend to fool into using a very high aperture since the stars are far away, but remember that depth-of-field is how much of the picture is sharp, as opposed to where the sharpness appears.
Try using the lowest f-stop you have available on your lens. By focusing on the stars, you’re focused to the furthest point out the lens can focus, so you a low f-stop to capture the dim starlight. If you usually take your photography in the woods or open location with no objects in the foreground, then you could easily shoot at f/2.8.
Usually, photographers like to keep the ISO setting 3200 – as low as possible to prevent the photos from becoming grainy. Just remember many types of nighttime photography will require high ISO values. If you have a camera manufactured since 2011, it will probably allow selection of ISO as high as 3200 or even higher. Most of the DSLR models that we’ve reviewed are capable of shooting photos at ISO 6,400.
Shooting at ISO3200 will produce noise in the picture. This is unavoidable with current technology, but there are a few settings that you can configure to mitigate the noise in the photo caused by the high ISO and long shutter speed. My preferred method is long exposure noise reduction.
Long exposure noise reduction is available on top-rated DSLRs. If you are using a Nikon, look for “Long Exposure NR” in the shooting menu of the camera. Canon DSLR cameras, go to your menu, then go to custom functions, and browse through them until you find long exposure noise reduction. Each Canon model has a different custom function. This feature uses a technology called dark frame subtraction.