Astrophotography Tips for Beginners

Meta Explains The Best Astrophotography Tips For Beginner Photographers

How To Shoot Astrophotography for Beginner Photographers

How To Shoot The Best Astrophotography – In this section of Photography Tips and Techniques, Meta Explains The Best Astrophotography Tips For Beginners.

Astrophotography involves shooting in the middle of the night on New Moon nights, with no Urban Light Pollution. HOYA RA54 Red Enhancer Filters can help reduce Light Pollution.

Astrophotography Planning – Great Astrophotography doesn’t happen by accident – It takes a lot of planning. The PhotoPills App can assist you in the planning your night shots for Photographing the Milky Way, the Moon, the Sun and other Star Patterns.

Where To Buy The Best Astrophotography Books

Meta’s Best Astrophotography Tips and Techniques

The Milky Way
The Milky Way Taken at ISO 2500 20 Second Exposure

What’s The Best Astrophotography Setup?

How To Shoot Astrophotography – You’ll look very suspicious wearing a Red LED Headlamp at 2:30 AM, so always Inform Law Enforcement know where and what you are doing.

Meta’s Best Astrophotography Tips

• Get Written Permission – Many Public Parks are closed after Dusk or Midnight.
• Wear a Red LED Headlamp – Allows Hands Free Night Vision in Total Darkness.
• Best Time for Astrophotography – After Midnight – Less Light Pollution, Less Airplanes.
• Try to shoot on or very close to a New Moon – New Moons are the darkest nights, so they are the best nights to view celestial objects like planets, meteor showers, and deep sky objects such as star clusters, nebulae, the Milky Way, and galaxies. New Moons occur every 28 days or 13 times per year.
• Never Shoot at Night Alone – There’s Safety in Numbers – Always Bring a Friend.
• Use Your Widest and Fastest Lenses – Meta uses her Minolta AF 20mm f/2.8 Prime Lens.
• Always Shoot in RAW.
• ISO 1600 to ISO 3200 works the best.
• Turn Image Stabilization OFF when Shooting on a Slik Pro 700DX Tripod.
• Turn Long Exposure NR OFF when Shooting Astrophotography. It mistakes faint stars as noise and tries to eliminate them.
• White Balance – Auto White Balance. When shooting in RAW it doesn’t matter.
72mm Light Pollution Reducing Filter – Reduces Yellow Sodium Vapor Streetlight Colors.
• Dress Warmly. Bring an Emergency Rain Poncho, Red LED Flashlights, Extra Camera Batteries and Extra AAA Lithium Batteries.

Astrophotography ISO Settings

Astrophotography Dew Remover – Use a Heated Lens Wrap

One issue with Long Exposure Astrophotography on a cool summer night is Dew or Fog buildup on your Camera’s Lens. When the surface of your Camera Lens drops below the ambient temperature of the outside air, Dew or Fog starts to condense on the lens. Once your lens has been “fogged-up”, it no longer captures clear images and results in many blurry images. One inexpensive solution is to use an inexpensive Dew Remover Heated Lens Wrap. This low power 5W USB Powered Heated Lens Wrap prevents lens condensation and fogging-up by gently warming the lens on your Camera and keeping dew or fog from forming.

Power Consumption for the Protage Dew Remover is 5000mW (5V x 1000 mA). It can be powered from any High Capacity 5V USB Power Bank. The Compact Anker 13000 USB Power Bank will run the lens heater for about 2.6 Hours (13000mAh/5000mW). Fits nicely into a Black Rapid Bryce Pouch.

How To Find The Milky Way – Use PhotoPills

PhotoPills App – For Astrophotography, Always Plan Your Shots! Great Astrophotography rarely happens by chance – They’re often planned many months in advance.

The PhotoPills App can assist you in the planning your night shots of the Moon, the Sun, The Milky Way and other Star Patterns.

The PhotoPills App will tell you exactly where to stand, what direction to point, what time and date to shoot. Meta Highly Recommends the PhotoPills App!

The Best Lenses for Astrophotography

The Best Lens for Astrophotography depends on how far away your foreground is and how much of the Milky Way you want to capture. The Best Astrophotography Photographs come from using your Widest and Fastest Lenses.

Meta uses her Minolta AF 20mm f/2.8 Prime Lens.

Remember not to shoot longer than 30 Seconds on a Full Frame Camera (Best) or 20 Seconds on a Cropped Sensor Camera (2nd Best), or you’ll get Star Trails! Shoot both Horizontal and Vertical Photographs of the Milky Way. Include some interesting foregrounds.

How To Avoid Star Trails – Non Tracking Method

The 500 Rule for Astrophotography – The earth is constantly turning, with us on it. To avoid shooting Star Trails or the continuous paths created by stars during long exposures, you must Limit your Exposure Time to under 30 Seconds on a Full Frame Camera or 20 Seconds on a Cropped Sensor Camera. The 500 Rule for Astrophotography Exposure Time is based on your Focal Length and your Camera’s Sensor Type. Use an Intervalometer to Program the Maximum Exposure Time, as calculated below:

Astrophotography Lens Sizes

Maximum Exposure Times = 500/Lens Focal Length x 1.5 Sony Crop Factor

30 Seconds for 14mm (Full Frame)
27 Seconds for 18mm (Full Frame)
20 Seconds for 16mm (APS-C) or 24mm (Full Frame) – Sony 16–50mm f/2.8 Lens
17 Seconds for 20mm (APS-C) or 32mm (Full Frame) – Minolta AF 20mm f/2.8 Prime Lens
15 Seconds for 24mm (APS-C) or 35mm (Full Frame) – Minolta AF 24mm f/2.8 Prime Lens
10 Seconds for 35mm (APS-C) or 50mm (Full Frame) – Minolta AF 50mm f/1.4 Prime Lens

The Wider Lens can stay open the longest, which should result in the Brightest Astrophotography. If you are using a Full Frame Camera (Best), such as the Sony a99 II Camera, drop the 1.5 Sony Crop Factor from the formula, which will result in Longer Exposure Times, up to 30 seconds. If you are getting Star Trails, try reducing your Exposure Time by a few seconds.

Intervalometer Programming For Astrophotography To Avoid Star Trails

• Use an Intervalometer with the Camera’s Shutter Speed set to Bulb Mode.
• Install a fresh pair of AAA Lithium Batteries in the Intervalometer before using.
• Turn Off Long Exposure NR. It mistakes faint stars as noise and tries to eliminate them.

Meta’s Intervalometer RAW Settings for Continuous Astrophotography using her Minolta AF 20mm f/2.8 Prime Lens for the Longest Single Exposure:

DELAY: 00:00’:10” | LONG: 00:00’:17” | INTVL: 00:01’:00”

This program begins shooting after a 10 second setup DELAY, then takes a 17 second LONG Exposure (20mm Lens on a Cropped Sensor), every minute (17 Seconds LONG + 43 Seconds Gap= 1 Minute). This should give you a 43 second gap to preview the image and make any camera adjustments before the next shot. If you encounter a long delay after shooting, make sure Long Exposure Noise Reduction is turned Off.

Note: To ensure correct operation, choose an interval (INTVL) at least 2 seconds longer than the exposure time (LONG).
If you are using Long Exposure Noise Reduction, the Interval (INTVL) should be 2x the Exposure Time (LONG), plus 2 seconds.

On some models of Intervalometers, the Interval (INTVL) is the time after the Exposure Time and Before the Next Shot, so check your Intervalometer Manual to avoid any confusion.

• Program and Try your Intervalometer before it gets dark. Most have a lighted screen.
• Refer to your Intervalometer’s User Manual for Additional Programming Instructions.


How To Avoid Star Trails – Sky Tracking Method (Highly Recommended)

Use an SkyTracker avoids having to use the 500 Rule, wide angle lenses and short shutter times. With a Tracker, you can keep the shutter open as long as possible, until star trails start to show up, ie: 1 to 2 minutes vs. 20 seconds.

As the earth moves, the tracker will slowly move in the opposite direction, keeping you focused on what you are shooting. Having a much longer shutter speed (Minutes vs. Seconds) allows in more light, details and color, and you can use much a Lower ISO for Less Noise. You also don’t have to use your widest angle lens or a full frame camera. You can use any lens you want, up to a 70–200mm, or to the 6.6 lb gear limit of the tracker. If you want to take your astrophotography to the next level, consider buying a Tracker. Refer to the iOptron SkyTracker Pro Manual for Setup Information.

Meta’s Astrophotography Links

iOptron SkyTracker Pro Manual
Weather and Clear Sky Map

Meta’s Best Astrophotography Camera Settings

Camera: Sony a77 II Digital Camera
Lens: Minolta AF 20mm f/2.8 Prime Lens
Camera Mode: Manual Mode
Tripod: Slik Pro 700DX Tripod with an Intervalometer
Triod Bag: 90cm Tripod Bag
Focus: Manual Focus to Infinity – Tape Manual Focusing Ring with Gaff Tape
Focus Peaking: Turn Off For Better Star Focusing
Live View: Use Live View For Better Star Focusing
White Balance: Auto White Balance – When shooting in RAW it doesn’t matter
Image Stabilization – Turn Off
Filter: 72mm HOYA Red Enhancer Filter – Reduces Light Pollution
ISO: ISO 1600 to ISO 3200 works the best. (Take a few Test Shots and Check for Excessive Noise)
Shutter Speed: BULB Mode – Use an Intervalometer
Aperture: Wide Open at f/2.8
Drive Mode: Camera Shutter Speed to Bulb Mode using an Intervalometer

What’s Inside Meta’s Astrophotography Field Kit

Meta wears a Red LED Headlamp when shooting in the dark at sunrises and sunsets. The Two Brightness Red LEDs that won’t effect your night vision! Runs for many hours on 3 AAA Lithium Batteries.

Meta’s Astrophotography Field Kit attaches to the back of her Camera Bag. This Modular Configuration is used only for her Astrophotography contains:

• 1 Red LED Headlamp – Allows Hands Free Night Vision in Total Darkness
• 1 Red LED Flashlight – Helps with Night Vision in Total Darkness
• 1 Red LED Micro-Flashlight – Clips to Tripod
• 1 Sony Wireless Remote Control to Prevent Camera Shake
• 1 Dew Remover Heated Lens Wrap – For Use on Cool Summer Nights
• 1 Anker 13000 USB Power Bank – Powers Dew Remover for about 2.5 Hours
• 3 AAA Lithium Batteries – Spare Batteries for Red LED Headlamp
• 2 AAA Lithium Batteries – Spare Batteries for the Intervalometer
• 1 AA 3V Lithium Battery – Spare Battery for Red LED Flashlights
• 2 Lens Cleaning Wipes – Vest Pocket
• 1 Zeiss Microfiber Lens Cloth – Vest Pocket

Photography TipsShooting in at night or in total darkness isn’t easy. Wearing a Low Power Red LED Headlamp and having a Red LED Micro-Flashlight attached to your Tripod can help maintain your night vision, while still illuminating your Camera and Tripod. If you park your vehicle by your camera setup, consider switching your vehicle’s Dome Lights to Red LED Dome Lights.

Meta Explains The Best Astrophotography Filters – Red Enhancer Filters or Didymium Filters to Reduce Light Pollution

Astrophotography Filters

HOYA RA54 Red Enhancer Filters or Didymium Filters are commonly used to Shoot Astrophotography. Didymium is a mixture containing two rare earth elements, Praseodymium and Neodymium, used to tint Camera Filters to filter out light from 575nm to 600mn, which just happens to be the color of Sodium Vapor Streetlights (Photo: Left). The Award Winning Film (Video: Top), “Keep Looking Up”, a night sky time lapse film, was filmed entirely using a HOYA RA54 Red Enhancer Filter, with some amazing results!
HOYA 49mm Red Enhancer Filter
HOYA 55mm Red Enhancer Filter
HOYA 72mm Red Enhancer Filter
HOYA 77mm Red Enhancer Filter

HOYA Red Enhancer Filter Information

Meta Explains The Best Astrophotography Books

Photography Night Sky: A Field Guide for Shooting after Dark

Photography Night Sky: A Field Guide for Shooting after Dark

– Jennifer Wu and James Martin

Photography: Night Sky will give you the tips and techniques you need to take stunning night sky photographs in the dark. You’ll learn how to overcome the unique issues that confront nighttime photographers and capture images of which you’ll be proud. This clear and practical guide will help photographers of all levels portray the stunning spectacle of the night sky, preserving those special memories and moments from a life outdoors.

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