Astrophotography — Tips and Tricks

Getting an incredible shot of the stars or the Milky Way isn’t as hard as you think. This story about the cover photo proves that.

What you need

• A camera with manual exposure.
• Use a remote shutter or delay on your camera to stop vibrations from pressing the button.
• Batteries, batteries, batteries.
• A solid tripod.
• Lots of time.

Photo Tom Sue-Yek

Location

It really is all about location, location, location.

• Find a location where you will be comfortable in the middle of the night.
• You also need to be aware of light pollution. To get clean shots like this we recommend getting away from city lights by travelling a few hours out of town. You’d be surprised how much of a difference this makes.
• And, obviously, somewhere you can see stars. If you aren’t sure, there are plenty of apps you can get for your phone that you can point at the sky and see what constellation are where.

Tom Sue-Yek

Camera Settings

These are general rules. We recommend experimenting and seeing what works best on your camera. Some photos may not look fantastic on the small screen at night, but after some post production manipulation you might have a winner. Don’t give up when you’re out there.

• The general rule I use is keeping the shutter speed no longer than 20–25 seconds (or the stars will blur). The more complex side of this is the 600 rule. Divide 600 by the focal length of the lens you are using. In Tom’s case he’d divide 600/24 = 25 (meaning he could leave the shutter open for 25 seconds to avoid capturing the star trail).
• If you are after a timelapse star trail you will need to leave the shutter open longer.
• ISO as low as possible. Aim to stay below 1200 depending on the quality of your camera.
• F-Stop needs to be as high as your lens will allow (anything faster than f/2.8 is ideal).
• Put your lens on manual focus and turn it to infinity focus.
• Shoot in RAW to give yourself more post production options.

This image shows star trails don’t have to be in colour. Photo Tom Sue-Yek

Post production

The post production on these photos can make the difference between an ok shot and something incredible.

• You’ll need a photo manipulation program on your computer.
• The first few changes can be to exposure, light, and highlights to see what makes the image pop.
• Next you’ll want to experiment with the colour balance and make it more blue rather than a dull black.
• In post production you can also layer images on top of each other to get star trails if you shot a a timelapse.

An example of layering images to create star trails. Photo Tom Sue-Yek

Additional tips

Don’t forget the creature comforts needed for a night out.

• It will probably be cold too, so pack a jumper
• Have a friend come along for company as time-lapse photos can take up to an hour.
• Take a chair, standing around isn’t fun.
• Pack a torch. It’s going to be night time remember. You don’t want to be falling over while carrying your expensive camera.
• A sense of adventure, you never know what you might snap next.

Have a go and show us the results in the comments on Facebook. If you’d like to read the story behind the photos in this article, click here.

If you’d like a chance for your photos to be featured on Bokeh send your photos to socialmedia@digitalrev.comwith a story of how you took it and we will feature the best on our site.

Tom Sue-Yek

Cover image photographer Tom Sue-Yek

Originally published on Bokeh.

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