How To Photograph The Lunar Eclipse

Lunar Eclipse (2011) / Photo by Steve Berardi

Lunar Eclipse (2011) / Photo by Steve Berardi

On October 8th (this Wednesday), there will be a total lunar eclipse. It’ll be visible from much of North and South America, Australia, and much of Asia (see map).

In a total eclipse, the moon turns red (due to the way the light from the Sun is scattered as it passes through our atmosphere), and it’s truly a beautiful sight!

Here are some tips for photographing the eclipse:

#1 – Find the time of the eclipse in your area

Here’s a helpful website that will tell you when (and if) the eclipse will be visible from your city:

See what time the eclipse will begin in your area! (scroll to the bottom)

#2 – Use a long lens

Okay, this one is obvious :) To get a good quality image of the moon, you’ll want to fill the frame as much as possible, so that means using the longest lens you have. If you have any teleconverters, be sure to use those too!

For moon photography, you’ll want at least a 300mm lens. But, the longer the better!

#3 – Use a wide aperture and high ISO

The most difficult part of photographing an eclipse is that the moon is constantly moving, and it’s moving pretty fast (relatively speaking). Since you’ll be using a long lens that movement will be magnified–so, you’ll need a fast shutter speed to help “freeze the action” of the moon moving.

But, the problem is that when the moon is at total eclipse (i.e. dark red), it’ll be much darker. This means longer shutter speeds.

So, what can you do? Well, one way to help get a faster shutter speed is to use a wide aperture (f/8 works well) and a higher ISO (400 or higher). If you’re just photographing the moon, you really don’t need a lot of depth of field so an f/8 aperture works well.

#4 – Use a tripod

Since you’ll be using a long lens and you’ll need a long exposure to capture the dark red moon, it’s essential that you use a tripod to keep your camera still. It’ll be annoying to constantly re-adjust your camera as the moon moves across the sky, but it’s pretty much impossible to get a sharp image of the moon while handholding your camera.

#5 – Keep the moon in the center of the frame

Lenses are usually the sharpest at the center of the frame. So, when you’re photographing something that won’t take up the entire frame, it’s a good idea to keep it at the center so you can maximize the sharpness of your subject.

With the moon moving so quickly, you’ll have to constantly reposition your camera on your tripod, but for a little extra sharpness, it’s worth it, right?

#6 – Photograph the moon at different phases of the eclipse

Although the moon certainly looks cool when it’s at total eclipse, you might also want to photograph the moon at other phases of the eclipse. One popular thing to do is photograph the moon at multiple phases and then create a composite image of all the phases together.

#7 – Learn more from these great articles!

For more tips and techniques on photographing the lunar eclipse, check out these great articles:

What did I miss?

Is there something else you’ve learned from photographing a lunar eclipse? Please share it with us by leaving a comment below, thanks! :)

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steveb2About the Author: Steve Berardi is a naturalist, photographer, software engineer, and founder of PhotoNaturalist. You can usually find him hiking in the beautiful mountains and deserts of southern California.

Comments

  1. Paul Harding says:

    The article on planning a lunar eclipse by the photographers ephemeris was totaly confusing. You need to be a math professor to understand it. I have the tpe app and tried to follow the tutorial but got hopelessly bogged down.
    How do you spell COMPLICATED !

  2. Wes Hanson says:

    Use a remote release to minimize camera movement, even on a tripod.

  3. I think the last time we had a total eclipse is when I found your blog here. It’s been so useful throughout the ensuing years.

  4. This is the first site that gave me helpful info on the best time to view the eclipse tonight. – thanks!

  5. With my new D5300 I am refreshing my photography skills of about 8-years ago; I think I am going to love your newsletter. Thanks!

  6. Michael White says:

    Now that it is done, I can pass on my mistakes! time and date.com has a eclipse calculator which comes in handy for figuring out the how much is visible, when, for how long, and in what direction. It is fairly accurate, but when it said the elevation would be 45 degrees it was more like 70. Consider your tripod. Will it allow you to tilt high enough to cover that? Mine didn’t and my neck is still paying the price. I just bought a Nikon DR-6 90 degree eyepeice for the next time. From what I can see, it should allow me to easily confirm a good focus, and be able to track the moon during totality. I suspect it will allow me to follow the moon better than my resorting to the monitor. I could barely make it out. Also, consider if your tripod head will easily allow minute adjustments as the moon. I’d recommend a dry run during a new moon just to make sure you are ready for the rare event which will repeat October 8.

  7. Tom Crossan says:

    Great advice.
    Get everything ready the night before. Charged batteries, camera on tripod, area picked out etc. and take a few images of the moon.
    Plus do not forget the coffee.

  8. Nikhil Rawal says:

    I also suggest shooting the entire eclipse and all the stages right from the onset of eclipse till it achieves totality and further till the moon gets it full shape back. And this way you can actually put all the pics on one frame (courtesy photoshop) and see the beauty. I can actually post a couple of pictures loke tese but dont know how to upload pics here, but will be happy to mail to anyone who wants them.

  9. Yikes between 1:17am and 6:32am for me to see this event.
    Oh, use a “WIDE” Aperture of f8? That’s a tad confusing. When you say Wide I think of the most open (f2.8, f3.5, f4…..) Smaller f number is more open (think 1/fnumber hence 1/2.8 is larger than 1/22)
    f8 is Not Wide.
    It might have been better to say use an aperture like f8 and just leave out the word Wide.

    I just took some Moon Test shots with Tripod, Camera and 70-400mm lens. Came out pretty good.. :o)
    Now for the FUN Thanks.

  10. I have been taking photos of the moon this month from new to almost full ( tonight 7th Oct ) at 98%.
    I am using a Sigma 150-500 APO 6.3 telephoto on a Pentax K3. The best set up I found was F8 ISO 100, using the mirror up with a cable release on a tripod. The shutter speed and aperture are set on manual and the results have been excellent. It will be necessary to change the shutter speed as the eclipse progresses so it will be challenging but heaps of fun.
    We have had clear skies all month so far however Murphy’s Law will probably take over tomorrow night as showers are forecast. Fingers crossed that they are wrong. I will post some of my images if the weather cooperates.

  11. Great stuff – many thanks!
    ALSO – turn off the image stabilization – if you dont’ the lens will hunt (move) around and leave you with a fuzzy shot

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