Galaxy Photography Techniques For Beginners

Our galaxy is incredible and filled with raw, natural beauty.

However, when it comes to taking photographs of the Milky Way galaxy, there’s a lot of things you need to know and remember so you can capture the very best on offer.

Galaxy Photography Techniques For Beginners

But what exactly are you meant to do? What’s the best tips and tricks you should remember?

Well, we’ve sorted that out for you and written this handy guide that gives you the best galaxy photography techniques for beginners(see also: Food Photography Techniques For Beginners).

So, if you’re ready to learn a lot more – then read on and discover the answers!

Use The Widest Aperture In Your Lens

Before anything else, beginners need to remember one of the most important things for galaxy photography and that is the requirement to adjust the aperture.

Ideally, this will be f/2.8 – but if this is not possible, then you will want to use the widest that your camera offers.

Indeed, the best exposure settings (also including the ISO and shutter speed) is critical here.

This technique is the same for many low-light forms of photography, (see also: Forest Photography Techniques For Beginners) so it is by far the most important to remember.

If you are ever unsure about this, consider speaking with an experienced camera specialist who will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

Check The ISO Settings

As we mentioned previously, these types of settings are critical when it comes to galaxy photography.

When you are using a short shutter speed, getting the correct exposure at night time is very important.

To do this, you will need to increase your camera’s ISO settings to between 3200 and 6400 – but there are a few caveats to remember with this. First, your camera’s ISO settings will differ from another person’s.

Advanced cameras often have the ISO set much higher than entry level cameras – and when it comes to taking photographs of the galaxy, you should look to alter the settings to between 5000 and 12800.

Entry level cameras can be a little awkward to use when it comes to capturing the majesty of the galaxy (see also “Techniques For Capturing The Majesty Of Mountains“), because raising the ISO too high can lead to digital noise.

As a result, the best ISO for these sorts of cameras is between 1600 and 3200.

The second caveat to remember is the brightness of the moon.

The light conditions at the time of shooting your photograph will play a huge role in your ISO settings – and this brings us to the final caveat to consider; other lighting.

Street lighting and other forms of artificial lighting can significantly change your ISO settings. You will likely need to set your ISO a little lower to avoid any overexposure to the highlights.

Check The Shutter Speed

We’ve briefly mentioned the shutter speed, but it’s something you cannot overlook as a beginner trying to photograph the galaxy.

In order for you to capture very high quality images of the galaxy, you need to capture sharp stars and not star trails.

The actual maximum exposure time for shooting the galaxy will largely depend on your camera’s sensor, focal length and its megapixels.

When you are using a wide-angle lens, the shutter speed will range from between 10 and 25 seconds.

Therefore, it’s a good idea to remember the two best rules for galaxy photography; the 500 rule and the NPF rule.

These two rules will determine the best mathematical settings for your camera – but this depends specifically on which camera you are using.

It’s therefore a good idea to find one of many apps or online resources that can help you with these two rules for your specific equipment.

Adjust The White Balance To 4000K

While you may be aware that shooting in raw will allow you to easily adjust the white balance, photographing the galaxy requires you to manually adjust the white balance before you begin.

A great figure to start with is somewhere between 3800K and 4200K which usually gives you some excellent settings to capture the colors of our natural galaxy.

It’s important to maintain as much uniformity in your images as possible.

Manually Focus On A Star

One of the biggest challenges that beginners of galaxy photography will have is setting the focus.

As with a lot of considerations to your photography settings, the true focus settings will depend a lot on your camera.

However, the best advice we can give here is to tinker with the focus ring until you find the sharpest possible point.

Once you have done this, it’s important that you do not adjust it any further for other photographs.

Take a test shot, and once you are happy with the image’s quality – keep the settings as you have adjusted them to.

Consider Using A Shutter Delay

To get the maximum possible sharpest for your galaxy photography, you should attach your camera to a strong and sturdy tripod, and then use a shutter delay which is set to around 2 seconds.

However, these settings will change depending on how windy the conditions are.

If you’re shooting when it is very windy outside, you will probably want to adjust the shutter delay to about 5 seconds or longer to avoid any forced vibrations.

You could decide to use a remote shutter release, but these can be a little tricky to master at times and as a beginner, this is something you will likely want to avoid right away.

Understand And Adjust The Histogram

Assuming your focus is correct, you will need to check the histogram in order to get the best settings for shooting galaxy photography.

Beginners might find this step a little difficult at first, so it’s always a good idea to research a little on how to read the histogram.

Once you understand it a little more, you will ensure that the histogram is tilted to the left.

Know The Best Time To Photograph

Depending on what you’re looking to capture and where you are, the times in which you need to get everything ready will vastly change.

As a result, it’s very important that you know the best times to photograph, along with other areas of your planning.

It’s worth speaking with an experienced star photographer for the best and more tailored information for you before you start – and remember that as a beginner, you likely won’t get it all right straight away.

Therefore, be sure to remain as patient as possible and keep trying until you get the desired effect!

Have An Idea

One of the biggest errors that beginners have when it comes to galaxy photography is that they are not entirely sure what they are hoping to achieve.

It’s always going to be beneficial to have a clear idea of what you’re looking for before you begin.

As with the previous point, it’s always worth researching more and speaking with experienced photographers in this field to get better advice, as there will be plenty of different things to know which depend on your equipment and location.

Location Is Key

Finally, you will want to ensure you are taking your photograph of the galaxy in the best possible location. This is typically somewhere that has the least amount of light pollution possible and somewhere without obstacles.

Of course, this might mean that you have to travel a little further than you might expect, depending on where you live – but once you have taken some amazing photographs of the galaxy, you will understand why this is so important!

Final Thoughts

And that’s all you need to know about the best techniques for galaxy photography (see also: Waterfall Photography Techniques For Beginners)! We hope we’ve been able to answer your questions!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Equipment Do I Need To Get Started?

It’s likely that you’ve already got most of what you need. However, be sure that you have a high quality camera, a fast lens, a strong and sturdy tripod and a remote shutter.

Once you know you have all of these things, you can definitely get started!

Can I Take Galaxy Photographs With Light Pollution?

It’s possible to get some excellent photographs of the galaxy even when there is light pollution present – but it is certainly much more difficult. Therefore, if the light pollution is very bad – try to find the darkest possible area with a lot of cover from trees.

Ideally, you will be out in open areas without trees, but if the light pollution exposure is this high, the trees can help to provide some shelter.

When Is Best For Galaxy Photography?

Usually, the best time in both hemispheres is between February and October, but there’s nothing stopping you from getting started at any time.

Laura McNeill
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