Saturday, 11 January 2014

How do I take a beautiful photo of space?

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How can you best prepare?


  • Wait for clear, dark skies and try to keep away from artificial light.

  • Pick your location in the daylight. This way you’ll know how to find it when it’s dark.

  • Wrap up well. It gets cold at night, so you might need extra layers to keep warm.

  • Get your camera settings right. Watch Mark’s video to find out how.

It’s a beautiful clear night; the stars are dazzling the skies, the Moon hangs proud above and you even catch a glimpse of Jupiter millions of miles away in space.

How do you capture the beauty and wonder of this night sky on a camera?

It isn’t as hard as you might think to capture stunning pictures of the night sky. Some of the most beautiful photos of space have been taken by amateurs.

So if you’re inspired to give astrophotography a go, follow our tips to achieve the best results with your digital camera.

LJ Rich and Mark Thompson

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Mark Thompson and LJ Rich explain how to set up your compact or digital SLR camera to take beautiful photographs of the Moon

There are three key settings to think about when capturing objects in the dark night sky.

Aperture measures the size of the hole in your lens that lets light into the camera – you can adjust this using your camera’s f-stop or f-ratio setting.

When taking photos of dark objects at night, it’s generally recommended to use a LOW f-stop, which gives a large aperture to allow more light through. But beware, as photos taken with the maximum aperture may not be very crisp.

Photos of the Milky Way taken with a small (F11) vs large (F2.8) aperture

Shutter speed, or exposure time, defines how long the shutter stays open whilst taking a single photo.

A longer exposure allows light into the camera for a longer time. However, since the Earth is rotating, you’ll start to see trails of objects such as stars as they appear to move through the sky with a static camera if the shutter is open for longer than 15-30 seconds.

Photos of stars taken with a short (30 sec) vs long (4 hr) exposure

ISO on your digital camera indicates the sensitivity of the image sensor.

A higher ISO number means more sensitivity – this allows you to capture darker objects, but you may have a ‘noisier’, grainier photo. You’ll need to experiment to find the perfect balance between sensitivity and noise.

Photos of the Milky Way taken with a low (200) vs high (3200) ISO

NEXT: Capture beautiful details through a telescope

Stargazing LIVE can be seen on BBC Two at 8pm on 7, 8 and 9 January 2014. Photographs displayed in the above video are courtesy of Anthony Kenworthy, Doug German, Corinne Mills, Adrian Jannetta, Brendan Alexander, Jack Archer, Jeremy Jordan, Philip Ray and Samantha Bloomfield from the Stargazing LIVE Flickr group. You can share the photos you capture here too.

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