Those magical photographs of stars and galaxies in the sky surely look wonderful but how to do astrophotography feels like a daunting task. This is your one-stop guide. We will guide you through everything that a beginner will need for the first time and also briefly explaining what is astrophotography. Read along to learn more.
What is Astrophotography?
Before diving into the main article, we need to understand what is astrophotography. As the name suggests, it basically means photographing any celestial body that might appear in the night sky. Among these bodies, you can photograph planets, stars, galaxies, and nebulae. Astrophotography has become more popular in recent years because even a beginner can take great night sky shots with a decent camera. This has been made possible due to advanced cameras such as mirrorless cameras. Whereas, a few years back, telescopes and specialized equipment was needed for this kind of photography.
Basic Equipment for Astrophotography
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The first step in learning how to do astrophotography is gathering the equipment. Of course, if you are just starting, a point and shoot camera paired with a basic telescope can be used. Although, this is pretty basic, it is essential for learning. If you are thinking about going absolutely professional, we recommend that you invest in a good DSLR or even a mirrorless camera. Other than the camera, there a few things that you might need.
A Sturdy Tripod
A reliable tripod will be of more help to you than you can imagine. For successfully capturing a great Astro-shot, you are going to keep your camera steady at a fixed location. More on this later but it is easy to do this when your arms are not dying by the weight. That is why a tripod is a must.
The remote shutter release is not necessary but is absolutely helpful. Like we said, for astrophotography, the camera needs to be super steady. Since even pressing the capture button can slightly move the camera, hence there is need for a remote release. It allows you to capture images from some distance.
Settings for Astrophotography - How to do Astrophotography
The night sky, even at full bloom, has very little light that the camera can work with. That is why the settings are adjusted to make up for the low light. This is done by using an exposure triangle which is a composite of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
The shutter is what opens and lets the light in before a camera captures the image. Our goal is to take in as much light as possible, hence the shutter speed is kept very slow. It can be 1/1000th of a second or even run-up to a few seconds depending on the shot.
Aperture is basically the opening through which the light moves and strikes the sensor. It comes in f-stops such as f/4, f/2.8, and the smaller the number, the bigger the opening. For astrophotography, generally, a smaller number is used since we need to capture as much of the light coming from the stars as possible.
The function of ISO is to add more light to the images when it is not naturally available. However, using this will produce noise in the image. That is why we suggest using between 400-800 so that you get as many details as possible with as little noise.
Manual Focus is important
The very first thing that you need to do is take your camera out of Auto-Focus. The stars and planets seem so small in the sky that using Auto-Focus on them is impossible. Therefore, put the camera in manual mode. Also, you can even pre-focus on a distant point during daylight, fix the lens, and then use it at night time. Otherwise, if you have a lens with a manual focus, it is better to adjust the focus at the right time. For this, you can turn on Live-View to see everything on the camera display. This will help to focus on a singular subject and then adjust afterward.
If you are shooting in RAW format, you can change it anywhere in the post-processing. However, if you prefer to shoot in JPEG, you must take note of these settings. If you use auto white balance during astrophotography, the sky will look brown or even red. For getting the natural color of the sky, you can use Daylight or Sunny White Balance.
Star Tracker - How to do Astrophotography
Even a simple guide on how to do astrophotography will talk about a star tracker. A star tracker is basically a mount that tracks the sky or more precisely, the stars. It is important because the night sky is curved and it rotates throughout the night. Instead of changing the settings continuously, a star tracker is a must for automatically tracking the sky.
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How disappointing would it be if you went out for a shoot and no galaxies really came out that night? Well, that is possible. That is why always use planetarium software when planning to go for a shoot. It simulates the night sky and lets you know about the positions of galaxies and nebulae.
Successfully capturing astrophotography shots is intricate that is why a histogram is here to help you. If the data is more towards the left, it means that some areas are too dark. However, if the data is more towards the right, there is too much white in some areas.
You can view the detailed histogram of any image in Photoshop. If you want to become an expert in this powerful software, then join the Photoshop masterclass now and become a true professional in photography.
Conclusion - How to do Astrophotography?
We hope that you will capture great skies with the help of this guide. The only thing to remember is to learn what is astrophotography from here, then venture out and make your own style.
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