Shooting the Night Sky

by | Sep 25, 2010 | Tips & Tricks | 4 comments

Canon 40D, 17mm, f/2.8, 18sec, ISO 3200, manual focusThere is so much creativity involved when it comes to taking pictures at night. Most folks might say it’s best to shoot with a full moon. However, it is just as exciting to take pictures during a new moon. At this point the stars are the clearest and it doesn’t take a whole lot of experience to capture them.

On this picture, someone recently commented that they had tried taking pictures like it. I still do not know if they were successful or not, but I thought I would write out how I took this one to help anyone who has not been successful. It was actually a test shot for another image, so it was actually an accident that it was nice enough to post.

  1. Set up my tripod in a location far away from city lights and well after sunset or before sunrise. (It was seriously pitch black that night!)
  2. Set the Exposure Program Dial to M (or Manual).
  3. Set my aperture to f/2.8 (to allow in as much light as possible).
  4. Set my shutterspeed to Blub (the next choice after 30sec. on an SLR)
  5. Set my ISO to 3200 (again, to let a maximum amount of light in, though it will be too grainy for quality printing.)
  6. Set White Balance to Custom, around 2500K
  7. Turned on Long Exposure Noise Reduction (under my Custom Function settings in the menu.)
  8. Manually focused to infinity (with the help of a makeshift flashlight, my handy cell phone).
  9. Composed the picture using the silhouetted foreground trees as guides to show me where the horizon was. (This was really hard because everything is so black; let your eyes adjust. It is important, though, to get the camera level and composed.)
  10. Used an external shutter-release to open the shutter for between 20 and 30 seconds. (This allows the stars to be dots, rather than short lines.)

There is a big difference between this and shooting star trails. But I’ll post about that later.


  1. James Staddon

    By the way, I read to day that this is a picture of a “star field” as opposed to “star trails.” Fields are captured at less than 15 seconds. Anything longer than this registers visible movement.

  2. M. S.

    Oooo! Like we read in Church this morning, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! Who hast set Thy glory above the heavens… When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars which Thou hast ordained: what is man that Thou art mindful of him…?”

  3. Lucas Rathrock

    Wohh just what I was searching for, thank you for posting.

    • James Staddon

      Great! Glad the post was helpful. Do you enjoy night photography?



  1. Pic of the Month: September ‘10 « Lenspiration - [...] Composed the picture by comparing it to a Star Field shot. [...]

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