How To Use Light To Enhance Your Star Photos

Have you ever wanted to take a beautiful photo of a starry night? Or perhaps you’ve attempted these photos but can’t quite get the one you’re imagining. If this sounds familiar, you’ve come to the right place! 

How To Use Light To Enhance Your Star Photos

One of the biggest challenges faced by photographers is doing the beauty of a starry night sky justice! While it can be very tricky, there are some great ways to enhance your star photos using light (see also: How To Use Light To Enhance Your Design Photos). 

So, if you’re hoping to capture the beauty of starry skies, we’ve compiled some great tips to help you get what you need! Let’s dive in!

1. Choose The Right Equipment To Make The Most Of Light

Most people opt to use a DSLR camera or a smartphone to take pictures in everyday life, and this photography equipment will also work great when you are capturing the stars! 

It is a good idea to use a smartphone to capture images of the night sky. There are some apps available that will help you to make the most out of these photographs. 

DSLR cameras are great for using the light when taking pictures of the stars. They take reasonable images in low-light conditions, as they often have manual settings which allow you to use the camera’s functions to the best of your ability. 

Adjusting the settings will allow you to take improved images because you can control the way that the camera uses light.

2. Use DSLR Imaging Chips 

On your DSLR camera, you are likely to have an imaging chip. These chips have a wide ISO sensitivity range. This might sound like a lot of jargon, so, put simply, this will allow you to pick up images of some of the more faint stars. 

3. Adjust The Exposure Settings 

Many DSLR cameras have the option to set the shutter speed of your camera. This allows you to get much more exposure on your images, as you can set the exposure to up to 30 seconds.

This will allow much more light into the camera lens resulting in much clearer images of the sky. 

Certain cameras will also have a ‘bulb’ setting. This allows you to keep the shutter on your camera open for as long as you are holding the release. This allows for very long exposures which are perfect for capturing star trails.

When you are choosing a camera that has great exposure settings, Canon and Nikon often stand out. They offer great features for budding photographers!

4. Use A Tripod

It is very important to use a tripod when you are taking images of the stars. This is because you need to ensure that the camera is stable when you take long exposures, ensuring that no vibrations or movements affect the quality of the image.

Any exposure that is longer than 1/30th of a second will show any shake in the camera and the image will start to lose sharpness if there is any movement. If you are holding the camera for any period it is almost impossible to hold the camera completely still!

For this reason, you need to ensure that you purchase a tripod to effectively use light and exposure to enhance your photos (see also: How To Use Light To Enhance Your Cityscape Photos) of the stars. 

It is worth investing in a sturdy tripod as they are much more expensive. Lightweight tripods can tremble in the breeze, meaning that the image will be impacted by the movement. 

You will also need to ensure that you have a remote shutter release control because pressing the button is enough to cause the image to blur.

If you’re hoping to get some images of pin-sharp stars these two simple things will help! 

5. Use A Red Light Torch 

If you use a white light torch, you will ruin your night vision! This takes your eyes at least 30 minutes to build up. Instead, you should opt for a red light torch as this won’t affect your eye’s adaptation to the dark.

6. Adjust The Camera Settings 

Aperture Settings

You can easily adjust the aperture settings on your camera. This refers to the diameter of the lens which allows light to reach the imaging chip. 

These settings control the amount of light let into the lens which can be reduced or increased depending on the photographer’s needs. This controls the f/number, and a low f/number will give you a much wider aperture, letting more light into the lens! 

Sensitivity Settings (ISO)

The ISO is a standard that is used internationally which measures the sensitivity of the chip that is found in digital cameras. If you set this to a low value, it will produce very high-quality images. For these images, you will need plenty of light. 

If your sensitivity settings are set very high then you will be able to photograph faint targets. However, these photographs will be lower in quality.

Shutter Speed Settings 

You can change the shutter speed on many cameras. The shutter speed determines how long the imaging chip is exposed to light, so the slower the shutter speed is, the more light will strike the chip in the camera. 

Lots of cameras will also contain a mirror lock-up mode which allows you to minimize any vibrations and blur that result from shutter action.

How To Avoid Star Trailing 

To avoid star trailing, you will need to master the art of focusing. To do this, you will need to ensure that you are not using autofocus on your DSLR. This is because the DSLR will struggle to find anything to lock on to.

It is also not beneficial to squint through the camera to view the image you are taking. This is because you are not likely to be able to see much past the brightest stars. 

Most fixed lenses that you find on your DSLR camera can be set to infinity, but this is not often the best option when it comes to focusing. Instead, use some of the tips below: 

Live View 

Lots of DSLR cameras have a live view setting. This shows you exactly what you will see on the viewfinder. This live view is sometimes magnified, which makes it much easier to capture images of the stars and adjust the light settings to create the best photograph! 

Magnified Finders

You will be able to purchase a magnified finder for most brands of DSLR cameras. To use these finders, simply attach them to the viewfinder.

This will improve your viewing experience greatly and the 2x magnification will enable you to judge your focus a lot more accurately when it comes to brighter stars. 

It is a good idea to take a test exposure photo to confirm whether your photograph is in focus. If it is necessary, you can then adjust the focus again.

Camera Control

To use autofocus, your camera will need a strong light source. In most cases, things in the night sky are not bright enough for the autofocus to latch onto. Instead, aim at a distant streetlight to help the camera find its focus.

Then, turn off the autofocus setting and leave the lens where it is. This way, you will know that the camera is in focus when you are photographing the stars (see also: How To Photograph Shooting Stars) in the sky.

Composing Your Photos

Once you have the basics down, you can then attempt to use light to adjust the composition of your photos.

To do this, include an object in the foreground of the photo to complement the stars in the background. For instance, lone trees or other dramatic natural terrain work well for this purpose.

You can choose to use a torch or camera flash to illuminate the foreground, highlighting the object. Then, the exposure will reveal the stars in the background.

For more artistic photos, you can get one person to appear more than once in the photograph! This is done by having someone stand with a torch.

Then, this person will need to switch off the torch while they move positions before turning the torch back on again. When the photo is finished, they will appear in lots of different places at once.

You can also create a beautiful effect if you have someone walk through the scene with a red light torch during the exposure. This will create artistic streaks throughout the photo.

Final Thoughts 

So, there you have it! If you’re wondering how to use light to enhance your star photos, (see also: How To Use Light To Enhance Your Nature Photos) you’ve come to the right place!

You should now have all the information you need on enhancing your star photos using light (see also: How To Use Light To Enhance Your Ocean Photos). Now that you have this information, go out and attempt to do the beauty of the night sky justice!

Laura McNeill
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