Are you up for a challenge? Photographing a full moon certainly qualifies. This is your week to try your hand! Thursday night is the full moon, and we’re expected to have partly cloudy skies, allowing us (hopefully) a view of it. April’s full moon is called the Pink Moon, for a variety of wild phlox that blooms early in spring.
Keep in mind that there are whole books written on the topic of moon photography, so we’re just scratching the surface here. However, there really are just two basic challenges that stand between you and a good moon photograph: proportion and light. With the right equipment—if not some post-production finesse—you can manage.
Let’s start with perspective. You are really far away from the moon, so much farther than you are from anything else that will be in your scene. Your brain makes visual adjustments for that disparity; your camera, left to its own devices, does not. A longer lens will help. Grab a lens that is at least 200mm. Otherwise; the moon will look tiny and sad. For good detail, 300mm is more like it, but a telephoto lens is your best bet. Remember: With big zoom, you risk shaky photographs, so be sure to use a tripod and your shutter delay.
Now let’s talk about light. Though you’re shooting at nighttime, your subject is illuminated in sunlight. Try the Sunny 16 rule: Use an f/16 aperture with the same shutter speed as the ISO (e.g., ISO 100, 1/100 s). From there, experiment with different settings to find the sweet spot for your equipment and conditions. Also, remember how we talked about HDR photography last week? If you’re trying to photograph a moonscape, bracketing together multiple exposures can really help. You’ll get the best lighting of the moon in one exposure, then the best lighting of the rest of the scene in another exposure (or two). The composite of these images will more closely approximate what your brain saw.
While it’s a huge thrill to get a photograph that looks beautiful straightaway, your pal when it comes to photographing the moon is a photo-editing tool like Photoshop. Back at home, you can sharpen the angles and make micro-adjustments to the brightness, contrast, and colors to get the photograph looking its best.
Ready to try? Moonrise is at 7:10 p.m. tomorrow!
P.S. Check out this stunningly beautiful real-time video of a moonrise: