The Best Gear For Planetary Photography

Capturing the beauty of the universe is something that can really make you feel amazing. Actually picturing the planets and stars and managing to be able to show others through your art is something that can’t easily be matched.

The Best Gear For Planetary Photography

However, planetary photography is different from other forms of photography. While most forms of photography require specific types of gear, planetary photography gear (see also: The Best Gear For Mammal Photography) can be a little tricky and, at times, confusing. 

Luckily though, we’ve made it a little easier for you. We’ve written this guide that shows you the best gear for planetary photography. So, if you’re hoping to really get involved and capture the wonders of the universe, then read here for more information!


Before you get started, it’s important that you find the right telescope.

The fact is that planets are incredibly minute when you’re trying to capture them, and it’s for this reason that you’re going to need to source yourself with very long focal lenses but also – the right telescope.

Typically speaking, it’s not possible to capture anything from the surface of these planets usings lenses or telescopes (see also: How To Photograph Planets With A Telescope) which are under 500 mm in total focal length. Great telescopes for this form of photography will begin at around 2000 mm and above. 

Aperture is also important here because the larger that is, the better the resolution will be. This differs from sky or deep sky imaging because telescopes with slower focal ratios are better for that. 

So, which telescope would be an ideal choice here? Well, really it comes down to you but what you’re really looking for is a long focal length with a large aperture. A good idea is to look for a designated solar telescope which will make life so much easier.


Regardless of what telescope you get, you’re going to need a good mount that can withstand the weight and keep your gear stable. In fact, many would go as far to say that when it comes to planetary photography, the mount is the most important feature. 

You’re going to be looking for an equatorial mount for the best results possible, but more importantly you’re looking at the rigidity and stability of the mount. If the telescope moves and moves your gear during your shots, you’re going to be in a whole lot of bother. 

Of course, you won’t really know which mount is best for you until you’ve sourced yourself a good telescope, and indeed a great camera – which brings us on nicely to our next point. 


As we know, the planets are incredibly small when it comes to photography, so to actually capture what you’re hoping to capture, you’re going to need a camera with a small sensor. Some of you might be wondering why it’s not the same as deep sky photography.

With deep sky imagery, you would most likely use a large sensor such as a cooled astronomy camera, but the problem with this is that while you’ll certainly get some excellent shots of the overall scenery, the planets will appear tiny on the image.

Additionally, small sensor cameras have a much quicker frame rate, typically in the range of hundreds of frames per second. Of course, this is ideal because you will have a very small window in which you can shoot your photographs, especially high quality ones.

We should also advise at this point that in order to accommodate a fast frame rate, you will likely be wanting to get a camera with 3 or more USB ports. This is because it avoids the autoguiding versions, which are often found with smaller cameras.

A final point here is that when you’re looking at different cameras, you might see monochrome or color versions. While the color cameras will be less costly, monochrome cameras have the ability to capture images with better resolution and more control.


Many people who are keen planetary photographers will want the best accessories to ensure their photographs are very high quality. Now, while this makes perfect sense, there are few accessories on the market that are going to seriously improve your camerawork.

As long as you have the key components that we mentioned above, you should be fine to take excellent images. However, one accessory that we might suggest is if you are hoping to capture images of the sun.

You’ll already know that you should never directly look at the sun as this can cause blindness and other eye damage. However, you can choose to look at something like a white light solar filter.

These are relatively inexpensive and work by providing a block between direct sunlight and your eyes. It’s pretty much a solar film made of glass that manages to darken the light from the sun thousands of times. 

You may have a problem capturing the best photographs of the sun overall, but accessories like this can seriously help you out. 

Tips For Planetary Photography 

There are a number of techniques and tricks of the trade that you might decide to look for. One of the best is what is known as lucky imaging. Lucky imaging in the most simple form is a technique of capturing images through hundreds of frames per second.

It then utilizes software to pick out the best images that you have captured and it will automatically discard any images that appear blurry or not fit for purpose. 

One of the best things about this technique is that you can still capture some excellent photographs, even in conditions that we would normally consider to be poor. 


We’ve said this before, but planets are small! In fact, they appear to be so minute that even when they are in their closest proximity to Earth, it’s an extremely difficult task to capture the image in any quality way.

Of course, this is why it’s so important to consider using a large telescope with a tiny sensor camera. 

However, while this might be the case, the sun and the moon will appear much larger in comparison to the other planets – and this is why you need to consider your framing technique very seriously.

There’s no hard and fast rule with the best way to frame these images, and a lot of it will depend on the specific image you are capturing – so it’s best that you use your own discretion here. 


As with many other forms of photography, one of the best tips we can give is for you to do as much research as possible before you plan your shoot. With planetary photography, there are a lot of things you need to consider. 

One of the biggest considerations to make is your location and the time you are hoping to shoot. Primarily, you will be doing this in the dark (so late at night), but you want to avoid any areas with a lot of light pollution.

It’s a good idea to speak with an experienced astronomer for the best locations to be for your photography. While conditions may play a role too, if you use some of the best gear that we have mentioned earlier, you might still be able to capture some excellent images. 

The Bottom Line 

And that’s everything you need to know and the right gear for planetary photography. We hope this guide has been useful for you. Good luck!

Frequently Asked Questions 

We will now go through some of your most frequently asked questions. Hopefully, we cover all of them for you. 

Does My Gear Really Make A Difference?

Getting the right gear for planetary photography will make a huge difference. Not only can it make life a lot easier for you in terms of time, but you should be able to capture much more high quality images. 

While we can’t tell you exactly what you should get, remember the fundamentals that we have mentioned earlier and look for them in the manufacturers notes. 

Will Light Pollution Be A Problem?

Light pollution is always an issue for this type of photography. One of the best pieces of advice is to find areas away from things like sports stadiums and other large forms of artificial light.

If light pollution is still a problem when you’re out in a remote location, try to find somewhere with a lot of trees. The trees may act as somewhat of a shield to the large levels of light. 

Do I Need To Know A Lot About Planets For This Photography?

Not necessarily. However, having some background knowledge can always be useful and you might find it helpful for things like your planning process, and even when you’re trying to find the best gear. 

Once again, if you are finding it a little tricky to get to grips with things, it’s always wise to speak with an experienced person in this field.

Laura McNeill
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