Photography Tips

How To: Photograph the Moon

June 7, 2020

In this blog post I am going to share with you a very simple way to create photograph compositions that highlight the moon. I am pretty sure that at some point, specifically during a summer full moon night, you attempted to take a photo of the moon ๐ŸŒ“, but it didn’t turn out the way you expected it… Well, I hope that this tutorial will explain the process of creating such photos in a simple and understandable way so that you can make your own moon photo compositions!

Equipment

Before we start, I need to highlight that for these photos you need a DSLR camera, a tripod, and two lenses; 1) one telephoto (a.k.a. zoom lens) preferably with a 300mm zoom and more – to take a picture of the moon and 2) a landscape lens (kit lens is perfect) – to shoot the landscape. This photo is called composition because you need to combine these two shots using a photo editing software. I use Photoshop and this is what I am going to use in this tutorial! Let’s start:

Step 1: Moon Photo

The first thing you need to do is take a photo of the moon:

  • Place your camera on a tripod in order to blurness
  • Zoom in as much as possible
  • Set your ISO to a low value e.g. 100 (depending on your camera)
  • Set the shooting mode on Manual (M)
  • Set the Aperature (A) somewhere between f/11 to f/16 – try taking a few shots to find the sweet spot.
  • Set the Shutter Speed (S) somewhere between 1/60th to 1/125th – once again try taking a few shots to find the sweet spot.
  • Finally, depending on how good your lens is you can use the autofocus Though a better way of taking the shot is to focus manually to infinity.

Use a self-timer or a remote shutter to take the picture. This way you will avoid shaking the camera when pressing the button minimising the risk of taking blurry photos.

You should end up with a photo similar to the one below. This was shot on my friends canon camera with a 200mm lens.

Photo #1: Moon (shot on a Canon 200mm lens)

Step 2: Take a photo of the landscape

Having shot the picture of the moon, you now need to take a picture of the landscape. For this you will need to change lens and settings..

  • Keep your camera on a tripod
  • Depending on how much light there is in your landscape increase the ISO. The darker the area the higher the ISO. If you are in a city with lots of lights, just increase it slightly. Just remember that a high ISO introduces noise to the photo.
  • Set the Aperature to a low value somewhere in between f/2.8 or f/4. Or a tiny bit higher if you want to do a long exposure.
  • Set the Shutter speed somewhere between 10”-30” or more depending on what you are shooting.

Use a self-timer or a remote shutter to take the picture. This way you will avoid shaking the camera when pressing the button minimising the risk of taking blurry photos.

Photo #2: Foreground (20” exposure shot)

Step 3: Photoshop composition

After taking these two shots, all you have to do is open them both in Photoshop and follow the steps below:

  1. Open both images in Photoshop
Both images in Photoshop

2. Use the selection tool (second item in the left menu) to select just the moon.

Select the crop tool
Select the moon

3. You now need to cut the moon. From the very top menu select Edit > Cut

4. Once you cut it, go to the landscape photo and from the same menu paste it on this photo Edit > Paste. You should see something like this. Use command + T (in Mac), to resize it evenly.

5. Next thing, we need to remove the moon’s black background so that it can blend with the sky in the second photo. To do this, from the bottom right menu select the layer with the moon and then right above it set the “Normal” to “Lighten”. Moon background should now be gone.

6. Technically all you have left to do now, is move the moon (using the first icon from the left menu which looks like a cross) where the actual moon in the landscape photo is. However, if you try to this now, you will notice that the moon in the landscape photo is too bright and comes through our moon. So it doesn’t quite look right. Let’s fix it.

7. Move the moon away from the spot. And then select the layer “Background” from the right bottom menu.

8. Select the “Spot Healing Brush” (8th band-aid icon) from the left menu. And then from the top menu set its size to approx 39 pixels. Once you set the size, “paint” over the bright spot where the moon is in the landscape photo. It should be smoother.

9. For the final step, select the moon layer again from the right bottom menu, and using the “Move tool”, move the moon to its original position in the landscape photo and voila!


Final photo composition

Two things that make these kind of photos more realistic are 1) to place the moon approximately at the same position in the landscape image and 2) to not make the moon look excessively big!

If you have any questions, write them as comments below and I will try to respond ASAP!

Good luck!

Irene

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