How to Shoot the Moon and Get Stellar Photos

by Team Sony 07/20/2012

Exactly 43 years ago today, one of the biggest accomplishments of the 20th century…scratch that…one of the biggest accomplishments in ALL of history, occurred –  man walked on the moon.

On July 20, 1969, astronaut Neil Armstrong of Apollo 11 became the first person ever to set foot on the moon.  As Neil said, it was one small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind.  Although, I have heard critics say that man and mankind are basically the same thing,  I give the guy the credit for his poetic spirit after being stuck in a metal tube for 3 days eating dehydrated space food.

In honor of the Moon Landing, Sony employee and photography enthusiast, Joshua Sy, has agreed to give us a few tips on how to capture that big orb in the sky, with photos courtesy of our Flickr Camera Club members. 


Figure out where the moon is going to pop up

Moon rising

Shot by Flickr Sony Camera Club Member STEPfuturistico with a Sony NEX-3

Moonrises over a landscape can add some drama to the scene, Ansel Adams style. There are some websites for this, but the easiest way by far to do this is to use an app like The Photographer’s Ephemeris to get the exact direction and azimuth for the moon.


For a tight view, use the longest lens possible

Super luna 2012-05-05

Shot by Flickr Camera Club Member dcardenosa with a Sony A77

 A good starting point is 300mm on a 1.5x crop, but this will still be a bit loose. If you don’t own a 300mm lens, the Sony A77, A65 A57 and A37 bodies have digital zoom that lets you get even closer without sacrificing resolution.


Expose properly

Moon silhouette

Shot by Flickr Camera Club Member Spencer Bowman with a Sony A850

Most cameras will be fooled by the black background and make the moon too bright. There are several ways to do this, but the easiest is to set the camera to spot metering and get an exposure reading off of the moon itself. Do a couple of test shots and set the camera to Manual once you get a photo you like.

A good start for a clean exposure of a full moon is 1/125 seconds at ISO 200 and f/16 but play around for the best results. These settings can be dialed in if you set your camera to Manual mode.


Use a stable tripod and remote release

Moon and cloud

Shot by Flickr Camera Club Member kevinkpc with a Sony A700

 This will help you retain sharpness especially if you are using longer exposures (under 1/250 seconds). It also makes it easier to hold the heavy camera and lens


Try framing the moon through something else in the landscape

Moon Over Landscape

Shot by Flickr Camera Club Member Dave Anderson with a Sony A900

Due to an optical illusion effect the moon will actually appear bigger!


As you can see, shooting the moon can be deceptively difficult, but with these quick tips you’ll be a moon pro in no time.  And if you happen to capture the man in the moon….please be sure to share.

 Happy Moon Day!!

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  1. Anonymous wrote: July 20, 2012 8:00pm

    Thank you for the reminder of the great accomplishment of Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew. Why, though, would you suggest a starting exposure of f/16 @ 1/125 when f/8 or f/5.6 would enable a shutter speed of 1/500 or 1/1000 and insure a sharper image since the moon is at infinity and not everyone has a rock-solid tripod or a cable release? Even with a distant foreground, f/8 would render the entire shot sharp.

    1. Ashley wrote: July 23, 2012 2:19pm

      Thanks for the comment! Josh is a big believer of having a cable release and tripod, but of course you can get great photos without. The right aperture/shutter speed combination is going to vary based on the desired effect, so either setting — the one you suggested, or Josh’s recommendation — will give good results.

  2. Anonymous wrote: August 5, 2012 5:51am

    These are such great tips!

    Thank you.

    1. Ashley wrote: August 7, 2012 11:54am

      You’re very welcome! Until I worked with Josh to get these tips, I had no idea how difficult it was to photograph the moon. If you get some good moon shots, feel free to share them with us on Twitter or Flickr.

      - Ashley


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