HOW TO GET IDEAL ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY
Astrophotography is considered one of the most technical genres of photography and may seem difficult for the inexperienced. But if you want, even a novice photographer is able to convey the night skies in all its glory. This is not as difficult as you might think!
The astrophotographer Mahmoud Alsawaf (© Mahmood Alsawaf) explains how to avoid some common mistakes that everyone makes at the beginning of his career when shooting astrophoto, and also shares practical tips on how to shoot the Milky Way or the star trail.
If you have failed astrophoto, what is the error?
Shooting a starry sky should always be in RAW format. By photographing in JPG you lose too much information in important details, which is not restored during post-processing.
Setting in the dark
You must be at the desired location before sunset. Choose a good foreground and set up the camera. You need daylight to focus. In the dark it will be very difficult to do this.
Try not to shoot on cloudy nights, with a full moon or when it grows or decreases. Ideally, the shooting should take place in those days when the moon is not visible. Always check the weather conditions and the lunar cycle before you go.
Shooting in a dark city
Leave or go away from the lighted streets of the city. “Light pollution” harms astrophotography like nothing else, because even if you have a clear night and no moon, the extra light will prevent you from getting a good shot.
Too much gear
Do you think that your entry-level SLR camera and lens set will not do its job when it comes to shooting stars? Not at all! Just make sure that you have the correct settings and you have taken into account all the conditions for astrophotography. Applying some knowledge in post-processing, you will get a beautiful image that you imagined.
What equipment is needed to start?
Need a DSLR camera and a wide-angle lens. If you have an EOS 7D or EOS 60D with an EF-S10-22mm f / 3.5-4.5 USM lens or an EF-S10-18mm f / 4.5-5.6 IS STM lens – consider yourself armed with a versatile set to begin with. Comfortable and durable tripod.
If you want to shoot star trails, how to get them in the frame and what to avoid?
To photograph stellar tracks, you must first move farther from the illuminated areas of the city. Remember to avoid light pollution.
You must have a compass if you find it difficult to determine the four directions yourself (North, South, East and West). Using a compass will allow you to get different forms of star tracks. For example, if the camera is facing north, you will get a circular trajectory track.
What camera settings should I use for shooting stars at night?
Shooting stars in the night sky is based on a long exposure. Long shutter speeds require more light in your shots, but at the same time, if it is too long, the camera will capture the movement of the stars, and this will lead to a blurry photo.
To avoid the appearance of stellar tracks (if this is not what you needed), use Rule 500. It will help determine what the exposure should be for a given lens with a given focal length. This rule is especially important when shooting the Milky Way.
Magic Rule 500
500 / lens focal length = required shutter speed
For example: 500/20 mm = 25 seconds (full frame camera).
However, please note that if for your camera you need to take into account the crop factor, do not forget to make a discount on this when calculating. Some Canon cameras, for example, have a crop factor of 1.6, so the calculations will look like this:
500 / focal length multiplied by 1.6
For example: 500/20 mm x 1.6 = 40 seconds
Are there certain moments of the night or time of the year that need to be avoided when doing astrophotography?
A photograph of the Milky Way is conditional and depends on how much the area in which you are located is lit. For most people in Russia, you can watch the Milky Way almost all year round.
And for shooting star trails, the time of year doesn’t matter at all, but you need to remember about all previous tips that relate to weather conditions and moon phases.