The universe seems endless and it makes the earth feel like it’s but a tiny spec. If you’ve had that moment at night when you’ve looked up at the night sky and felt overwhelmed by its sublime beauty, then you understand what astrophotography aims to grasp.
Whether you’re looking for some astrophotography techniques and tips to get you started, advice on a good type of beginner astrophotography camera, or astrophotography equipment for beginners, you’ll find lots of help here in our astrophotography tutorial guide below.
The best camera for astrophotography beginners
Capture the Milky Way galaxy and all of its stars with the most suitable equipment possible. This means choosing the best camera for the job. One thing that’s crucial is that your beginner astrophotography camera must allow you to open the shutter for at least 30 seconds. Both high-quality mirrorless cameras and DSLR cameras enable this.
The mirrorless Sony A7S III has incredible low-light sensitivity, and the Nikon D850 consistently provides noise-free results. But, the best astrophotography camera is only as good as the lens that’s attached to it. A wide-angle lens can pick up more light while also reducing noise, resulting in more nuanced contrast. Perfect for shooting our fascinating cosmos.
Settings for the best astrophotography
Keeping these camera settings in mind while shooting will help set you up to work your magic in the post-production phase. Here are some recommended settings for excellent results:
White balance for astrophotography. When taking RAW images, which is recommended for editing purposes later, it’s best to leave the white balance setting on “auto” or “daylight” so that the sky can be made darker and the stars brighter in post-production.
Aperture for astrophotography. Depending on your lens, you’ll probably want to use an aperture of around f/2.8 to f/5.6 to allow as much light as possible to reach your sensor.
Best ISO for astrophotography. Use an ISO of 400-1600 or more to brilliantly capture a nightscape. The higher the ISO, the more sensitive to light your sensor will be, resulting in a brighter image.
Shutter speed for astrophotography. Anything below 30 should photograph bright stars without trails, but generally, keep the shutter open for 20-30 seconds for astrophotography. A remote shutter release is recommended for this kind of range.
5 of the best astrophotography tips
These tips apply to all levels of astrophotography and will help you snap not just the lightness and darkness of a night sky full of sharp stars, but all the colours and mystical shapes, too. You might even be lucky with a sprawling galaxy or a night sky object like a nebula. Take heed of our astrophotography tips:
Choose the right time & location to shoot. When considering how to take photos of stars and all the beauty of the night sky, you’ll need to get away from light pollution. So head outside of cities away from streetlights and buildings, and shoot on a clear day. If it helps you keep your footing at night, visit your location during the day beforehand to get your bearings. For the absolute clearest skies, travel to more remote areas.
Use the appropriate gear. Certain astrophotography equipment will help you get shot. As discussed, suitable astrophotography cameras include high-quality mirrorless cameras or DSLR cameras, both types highly capable of taking clear photos of the night sky. A wide-angle lens is the best lens for astrophotography as it provides a larger field of view to capture all of the stunning stars you’re trying to photograph. To stay steady and avoid blur, you’ll benefit from having a reliable tripod.
Make your shots interesting. Think about the rule of thirds when composing your shot, and follow the 600 rule for longer exposures so star trails will not be noticeable. The 600 rule means that the seconds of exposure time should be 600 divided by the focal length of the lens.
Consider taking a telescope for skywatching. Get a closer look at the night sky while you’re out there. Become a stargazer and an astrophotographer.
Set aside time for the post-production phase. Make sure you’ve taken your images in RAW format ready for editing so you can easily make the stars even brighter. There’s plenty of software out there such as Photoshop and Lightroom to help you adjust the colours, contrast, and exposure of your images.
Take a look at Ted’s astrophotography blog to find more tips on how to capture the beautiful night sky above us, or browse their astrophotography equipment online. You’ll soon be photographing windows to the awe-inspiring universe.