8 Tips on How to Shoot the Supermoon

Mar 19 2011

Day 17: I have a dream... Moon over the Bay Bridge, San Francisco
5DMKII+ 100mm f/2.8 L, 1/40 at f/8.0, ISO 500

Photographers have a fantastic chance to capture a 14% fuller moon this weekend, so I thought I’d quickly post a few tips on how to get great supermoon shots!

1. Capture the moon is when it is close to the horizon

The best time to capture the moon is during moonrise when the moon is closest to the horizon line. This is considered the moon’s “Magic Hour” and gives you the best opportunity to grab a shot of the moon in a surrounding landscape with some sunlight. It’s also the best time to get interesting cloud cover over the moon and to capture a more orange coloured moon. You can use this site to find out when the moonrise is where you plan to shoot.

2. Place the moon in a scene

Unless you have a super telephoto lens, taking a shot of just the moon itself in the middle of the sky won’t be compelling. Instead, capture the moon as it rises over a scenic landscape or city scape. If you are in the country side, capture the moon as it peeks through large, gnarled trees, or over hills and mountains. If you live by the sea side, grab a shot of the moon and it’s reflection as it rises over the ocean. City folk, can get amazing shots of the moon rising between buildings or over bridges.

3. Use a long lens

If you have a telephoto lens that’s 200mm or longer, now is the time to use it. If you want the moon all in focus, make sure you set your aperture to f/8.0 or narrower. My longest lens is the 100mm f/2.8, so I have to be a bit more creative. If you are dealing with a shorter lens, focus more on the moon within a scene than the moon itself.

My view of the Lunar Eclipse December 2010
5DMKII + 100mm f/2.8, 2.5sec at f/4.5, ISO 640

4. Use a tripod

Say no to blurry moon shots! Use a tripod. If you don’t have one, find a post, ledge or something to lean your camera against. A shutter release trigger is always handy, but if you don’t have one you can always use timer mode to avoid camera shake.

5. Use low ISO and a long exposure

To minimize noise, set your ISO as low as you can go. Try to stay under ISO 800 if you can and use your shutter speed to compensate. If you are shooting at moonrise you won’t need to do an exposure longer than about 2 seconds. In the dead of night, it might be longer. Don’t go beyond 25 seconds or you will get star trails and slight movement with the moon that can cause blurriness.

6. Use AEB bracketing for a supermoon HDR

Set your dSLR to auto bracketing and set it to -2/+2. Set your camera to 2 second timer mode. When you hit the shutter button it will automatically take the three shots sequentially. If you don’t know how to do this, pry open that coffee cup stained camera manual of yours, or google it :P By taking 3 shots, you’ll be able to capture a lot more detail in the foreground. Make sure you set your camera to spot metering for the best results.

7. Avoid digital zoom on point and shoots

Digital zoom on point and shoots and camera phones generally creates a pixelated hot mess. It’s better to take the shot full size and then crop in post.

8. Use live view to get focus

Switch on live view, zoom in on the moon, and grab focus on Manual mode. You might have to increase your ISO so that you can see the moon to get focus. Once you have focus, switch to camera mode and change your settings back. I find this the easiest way to get focus.

I hope this helps encourage you to get out and shoot. Now get out there and get some great shots of the supermoon!

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24 Responses to “8 Tips on How to Shoot the Supermoon”

  1. no cloud cover would be nice too.

  2. All these tips sound great!

  3. thanks for the tips Lisa. If it stops raining up here in Sacramento, I’ll hopefully grab some cool pictures.

  4. I can see only clouds!!

  5. Couldn’t see it low in the sky over here plus we’ve got loads of clouds. Any ways, I did the best I could with my mere 200mm. It actually seemed smaller in the sky than usual, go figure. Here’s my shot. http://flic.kr/p/9rEMi9

  6. But the number one most important rule when taking a picture of a full moon: Stay away from werewolves!

  7. The moon has nearly the same reflected light that you would see during the daytime for a landscape shot. I shoot the moon at ISO 400 with a shutter speed of 200th of a second to silhouette trees and building in front of the moon. Shooting for a second or more of the moon will create a blurred moon, 25 seconds you would have to have a tracking system to avoid blur. Here are some examples of my moon shots … http://phoc.us/58e427

  8. We got lucky in England, sunset was hidden by low cloud in the west but there was no cloud cover to the east so we had a great view. This is my attempt goo.gl/photos/fZF9dpX7x4

  9. Lovely clear cold night in London. Moonset is too “stupid o’clock” for me to stay up for it but I got some decent moon shots earlier.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/parkylondon/sets/72157626178412559/

  10. Thanks for the good tips. Hopefully the clouds will clear longenough to grab a good shot.

  11. Great view here in Pittsburgh PA We usually miss things because of over cast

  12. no Supermoon here in rainy SF. Filling my photographic void with Werewolf flicks & a large meat lovers pizza. :(

  13. Thanks for the tips! Wish I had seen it sooner so I could practice. I was reading on my iphone just as the moon was coming up EST : )

  14. I really appreciate the great advice, I had been looking for about an hour before I found your post…worked like a charm! I’ll be processing my images tomorrow, but I can already tell the settings were spot on! Thanks so much!

  15. Thanks for the moon tips, Lisa. I just wish it wasn’t raining here in southern CA. Bummer.

  16. Thanks for the tips Lisa

  17. When I shoot full-moons there is a little guide to follow. On a full-moon (which can be half the brightness of the sun) I shoot at ISO 100, around f11, and try to get a shutter speed of 1/100.

    Also use a remote shutter release or a timer. :) Great for reducing camera shake while doing long exposures

    Like Lisa mentions, using Live View to focus is great, especially if you’re tripod isn’t study, especially if you’re using a telephoto (I typically use my 70-200mm)

  18. Here is my first attempt of taking photo of the moon on supermoon day:

    http://flic.kr/p/9rGd94

    Location: Orange County, California (pretty close to Disneyland)

  19. Very helpful tips on how to shoot the super moon… Thanks for sharing.
    Photographer Sydney

  20. not working with an iPhone :(

  21. wow, thank for the tips, I will try it all.

  22. Thanks for the advice Lisa. I am going camping this weekend in White Mountains (New Hampshire) and will be trying this. I was originally planning to get some milky way shots as well, but since its a super moon weekend, I had to change my subject.. :) I recently started with photography and have attached my Flickr page. Comments welcome! :)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/maverickshounak

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