Once you understand the lighting, then you can easily take photos of the moon!

moon 101


As I put this first photo of the moon on this blog, I want you to notice one thing:  The moon does have craters and details on the moon.  This type of photo can be taken easily to get that kind of detail.  And anyone can take this photo if you have the right equipment and the right understanding of light. So, let’s get into this very carefully, so you too, can take this kind of photo:


The moon is not a close subject.  It is very far away.  If you have ever taken a photo at night, or even in the day, and notice the moon in the picture, you will usually get a photo that looks like this:


What a beautiful photo of this building.  The moon is up there, but, there is no detail to the moon.  Do you want detail to the moon?  Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.  And that is what you will need to figure out.  I know a lot of photographers, will get their perfect photo of the moon, and add it in later during post processing.  But, if you don’t have that type of software, or know how to do it, then you are stuck with this.



Let me be right up front now, that to get a good photo of the moon, will not happen with your smart phone.  And if you have one of those lens attachments for your smart phone, that will be a very blurry photo as well.  I am sorry, but, I am just not sold on those lens attachments for smart phones.  They make it look so good.  They don’t look too bad on your smart phone, and that’s because they know you will usually only be looking at the photo on a 3 inch screen.  But, try to make an 8X10 photo…… YUK!

So, ideally, if you have a good digital camera and you want the kind of detail that you see in the first photo above, you should have at least a 400mm lens for your camera.  That would give you the type of photo that would fill the frame more.  Bigger would even be better, but,  you want to see detail in the moon, that is the lens you will need.


moon 102
“fly me past the moon” captured by PictureSocial member David Hobcote

I remember one time I had my camera up on the tripod to take a photo of the moon, and just as I got it in the frame where I wanted, it wasn’t where I wanted anymore.  Yes, this earth is moving around, and the moon is moving around too.  Amazing, I  hope I don’t hit any chords with those who believe the earth is still flat, but, the earth is rotating, at the same time the moon is rotating.  So, we need to be thinking about “stop action” photography.  Yes, everything up there is space is moving fast.  We need to get it on a tripod, and be prepared to stop action.  Which brings us to my favorite phase is used to use when I taught photography classes and got on this subject of the moon:

The moon is a rock sitting in bright daylight !  What is your exposure supposed to be of a rock in daylight?



Oh, this get’s people when I first tell them this.  The moon is just sitting there in bright sunlight, right?  Yes, it may be night time, but, you are trying to get a good exposure of something that is in bright daylight.  Your exposure meter is way off.  It sees all that black night around it.  It says, to expose for all that black around it, not the little rock there.  Think:  what is the proper exposure for something in bright daylight?  In fact, using ISO of 200, let’s go with 1/250 of a second at f16.   What?  A night time shot, using those settings?  YUP !!  Try it.  Or, if you have a very good spot meter, see if that is not what it says to do.  You know I am right.

moon 103
“Tower Bridge. London” captured by PictureSocial member Peter Wolledge

So, now you have figured out how to really get a good exposure of the moon, imagine what you can do by adding it to well lit subjects, such as Tower Bridge.  Not all places you go to will be this well lit, but, this turned out magnificent.  But, keep that in mind as you take photos of other things if you want detail of the moon.

Notice that if you take photos of the moon, and keep detail of the moon, that your subjects now become silhouettes.  And is that so bad?  They make incredible photos itself for night photos.  I can imagine how many photos are sold that are silhouettes. 











article written by lanny cottrell



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