How I Shot The Moon

Truth is if I took my Canon Xsi and set it on auto it would produce the same type of shot you get from a point and shoot–overexposed and a little blurry.

I went out and shot the Moon last night. A reasonably pedestrian shot, but it got a bunch of comments on Facebook and Twitter. That’s probably because lots of people try to shoot the Moon with little success. I’ll give you my secrets.

If you’ve got a camera that’s full automatic you’re screwed! The moon will be white and totally featureless. Sorry.

However, it’s possible your camera isn’t as automatic as you think! Lots of point and shoot cameras also have manual modes or ways to play with the settings a little.

My shot is underexposed! Well, it is to the on-camera metering system.

The Moon is small enough in the field of view that the camera is willing to think it’s an anomaly and set-up for what’s in the rest of the frame–black! I told the camera, “use your judgement then subtract two f/stops.” That made the finished product darker than what auto called for.

Even with my 200mm lens the Moon was small in the frame. I cropped the shot with Photoshop. You can easily crop or cut away the unimportant parts of shots with Picasa , from Google and free, or at Picnik.com, also free.

Cropping a photo is almost like zooming in farther. You’ll be showing part of the frame in the same space you’d normally show all of it. That exaggerates any motion and increases the chance of a blurry shot. To combat that I set my shutter speed reasonably high at 1/640 second and mounted my camera on a monopod for extra stability.

No monopod or tripod? Sit the camera on a stationary object like a car or a fence. Lean up against a tree or building. If you’ve got a jacket use that to cushion and steady the camera and give yourself a little more latitude in where it’s pointed.

I wasn’t confident my lens would properly focus on the moon so I focused manually. I’m not sure if that helped, but I was more confident in my abilities that its.

This photo was sharpened after it was downloaded to my PC. Almost all my photos are. Again, this is something Picasa and Picnik both provide which really help. Sharpening a photo a little can make it pop out at you.

When I post photos I’ll often be asked what kind of camera I used. Truth is if I took my Canon Xsi and set it on auto it would produce the same type of shot you get from a point and shoot–overexposed and a little blurry. Spending a few seconds to manually adjust can make a world of difference.

13 thoughts on “How I Shot The Moon”

  1. Great picture!
    I took some last night (Canon PowerShot SD 1400 but I put it on manual) but yeah, they were just….white. I’ll have to load them to IPhoto and see what I can do with them. Thanks for the tip – I would have just deleted them.

  2. Now you tell us…….most of my attempts to capture the moment with my point and shoot were deletable! I’ll be better prepared next time.

  3. I, too, used a Canon Powershot and got the results you describe. Too bad, too. The view from across Guilford Harbor was beautiful. I posted it on my FB page with a note that the photo wasn’t nearly as nice as the real thing.

  4. Great tips for those of us afraid to turn the camera off of auto…. LOL… I have a “hand me down” Nikon D50 from my son and I get a little braver every so often….after reading this post, I think I need to do it more often! Thanks, Geoff!

  5. Great shot Geoff! I should hook you up with my brother and mount your camera to his Celestron 8 scope!

    You are appreciated more than you know. Best of blessings, luck and wishes to you and yours. ­čÖé

  6. I set my 40D to manual on a tripod and set the White Balance to sun. mine came out more true to the actual color. I figured it was being light by the sun why not balance it that way. I used a cheap 500mm Russian mirror lens.

    1. Bob – My color was true. When the Moon rises and sets (as with the Sun) and its rays pass through more of the atmosphere some colors are scattered out. Reds dominate.

      1. Mine was like yours…red dominated. I’m still on the fence as to use RAW or JPG. Did you do it in RAW and photoshop the results or let the camera do the work?

  7. I love the pic alot. you gave us great tips. That’s what i was looking for when the moon reached to nearest to the earth that never ever happened before. I lost the chance. But now i know it, i’ll wait

  8. Nice shot. I was fortunate enough to also get a good shot. I decided to spend some time getting to know my D300. Anyway I wanted to mention Gimp as a useful software for editing pictures. Very similar to photoshop and best of all it’s free.

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