Tips – Exposure for Lunar Photography

This is a simple guide for obtaining good lunar images.

Using F16 as the F stop

 ISO Setting

 Full Moon

 Gibbous Moon

 1st Quarter

  A Thick Crescent

  A Thin Crescent

100

1/60

1/30

1/15

1/8

1/4

200

1/125

1/60

1/30

1/15

1/8

400

1/250

1/125

1/60

1/30

1/15

800

1/500

1/250

1/125

1/60

1/30

1600

1/1000

1/500

1/250

1/125

1/60

3200

1/2000

1/1000

1/300

1/250

1/125

Bracket your exposures as atmospheric conditions will alter the amount of light entering your camera.  Also keep I’m mind that the lower the moon is on the horizon it will reflect exponentially less light (the light is being  absorbed by the thicker atmosphere). As such you will need longer exposure for the moon low on the horizon compared to the same moon higher up.  A Facebook friend, Jürgen M Lobert said and I quote “As a rule of thumb, the more yellow/orange the moon appears, the more light is absorbed and the longer exposure it will need”.

For the best results keep your exposures as short as possible.  After all the earth and the moon are moving and you do not want blurred images.

The longer the focal length of your lens the shorter the duration of your exposure to prevent blur.  Here are the recommended maximum exposure times based of typical focal lengths used for this type of imagery:

  • 6 seconds when using a 100 mm lens on a full frame sensor
  • 3 seconds when using a 200 mm lens
  • If you use a 500mm lens limit your exposure time to a ¼ second

Set your exposure on manual and bracket.  Make sure you cover your viewfinder/eye piece to prevent stray light from polluting your image during these long exposures.

Remember the higher the ISO the more noise, the longer the exposure the more noise.