The Best Astrophotography Tips and Techniques For Beginners

How To Shoot Astrophotography For Beginners

How To Shoot Astrophotography – In this section of Digital Photography Tips and Techniques, Photos By Meta Explains How To Shoot Astrophotography. This involves shooting in the middle of the night on New Moon nights, with little or no Urban Light Pollution.

Where To Buy The Best Astrophotography Books

How To Shoot Astrophotography For Beginners

Sony 16-50 f/2.8 Zoom Lens
Sony 16–50 f/2.8 Zoom Lens – Uses a ø72mm Filter

Astrophotography Tips and Techniques

• Tell Law Enforcement – You’ll look suspicious wearing a Red LED Headlamp at 2:30 AM.
• Get Written Permission – Many Public Parks are closed after Dusk or at Midnight.
• Wear a Red LED Headlamp – This allows Hands Free Night Vision in Total Darkness.
• Best Time for Astrophotography – 1 AM to 4 AM.
• 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 Sony 16–50 f/2.8 Zoom Lens.
• Shoot in RAW with Exposure Brackets which can later be used for HDR Photography.
• Turn Off Image Stabilization when Shooting on a Sturdy Tripod.
• White Balance – Use 3200°K to Cool Down the Colors. When shooting in RAW it doesn’t matter.
• Use a 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 Dew Remover – Buy a Heated Lens Wrap

One issue with Long Exposure Astrophotography on a cool night is Dew or Fog buildup on your Camera’s Lens. When the surface of your Digital 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 install 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 Digital 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.

PhotoPills – A Must Have App

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 uses and Highly Recommends the PhotoPills App, which sells for Under $10!

Intervalometer Programming For Astrophotography

• 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.
• Meta’s Intervalometer RAW Settings for Continuous Astrophotography:

DELAY: 00:00’:05” | LONG: 00:00’:20” | INTVL: 00:00’:22”

This begins shooting after a setup 5 second DELAY, then take one 20 second LONG Exposure, every 22 seconds (LONG + 2 Seconds).

Note: To ensure correct operation, choose an interval (INTVL) at least 2 seconds longer than the exposure time (LONG).

When using Long Exposure Noise Reduction (LENR – Is Not Used in RAW, only JPEG), the Interval (INTVL) should be 2x the Exposure Time (LONG), plus 2 seconds, or 42 Seconds in this example.

Some models of Intervalometers, use the Interval (INTVL) as the time after the Exposure Time and Before the Next Shot (2 Seconds in this example), so check your manual.

• 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.


The 500 Rule

The 500 Rule For Astrophotography Exposure Time – The earth is constantly turning, with us on it. To avoid shooting any Star Trails or the continuous paths created by stars during long exposures, you must Limit your Exposure Time to under 20 Seconds, but also keep it open long enough to get Bright Astrophotography. 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:

Maximum Exposure Times to Avoid Star Trails

Crop Sensor Maximum Exposure Time For Sony a77 II Digital Camera = 500/Lens Focal Length x 1.5 Sony Crop Factor (Rounded Down to Avoid Star Trails). Try not to shoot longer than 20 Seconds!
16mm Lens: 500/16mm x 1.5 = 20 Seconds
20mm Lens: 500/20mm x 1.5 = 16 Seconds
24mm Lens: 500/24mm x 1.5 = 13 Seconds
28mm Lens: 500/28mm x 1.5 = 11 Seconds
35mm Lens: 500/35mm x 1.5 = 9 Seconds
50mm Lens: 500/50mm x 1.5 = 6 Seconds

The Widest Lens can stay open the longest, which should result in the Brightest Astrophotography. If you are using a Full Frame Camera, such as the Sony a99 II Digital Camera, remove the 1.5 Sony Crop Factor from the formula, which will result in Longer Exposure Times.

Astrophotography Digital Camera Settings

Camera: Sony a77 II Digital Camera
Lens: Sony 16–50 f/2.8 Zoom Lens (ø72mm Filter Size)
Camera Mode: Manual Mode
Tripod: Sturdy Tripod with an Intervalometer
Focus: Manual Focus to Infinity
White Balance: 3200°K – When shooting in RAW it doesn’t matter
Image Stabilization – Turn Off when on a Sturdy Tripod
Filter: HOYA 72mm Red Enhancer Filter
ISO: 100 to 3200 (Take a few Test Shots and Check for Excessive Noise)
Maximum Shutter: 20 Seconds to Avoid Star Trails
Aperture: f/8.0 to f/11
Drive Mode: Camera Shutter Speed to Bulb Mode using an Intervalometer

Tripod Leg Pouches for Long Exposure Lightning Photography at Night

Meta uses a Sturdy Tripod for Long Exposure Photography, including Lightning Photography at Night. Velcroed on the 3 Sturdy Tripod Legs are 2 Black Rapid Bryce Pouches and 1 Protective Case for the Intervalometer. The 2 Bryce Pouches contain:
• 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 outside of Bryce Pouch
• 1 Wireless Remote Control to Prevent Camera Shake
• 1 Dew Remover Heated Lens Wrap – For Use on Cool 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 3.6V Lithium Battery – Spare Battery for Red LED Flashlights
• 2 CR2032 Lithium Batteries – Spare Batteries for Wireless Remote Control and Red LED Micro-Flashlight
• 4 Zeiss Lens Cleaning Wipes – Front Pocket
• 1 Zeiss Microfiber Lens Cloth – Front Pocket

The Best Astrophotography Filters – Red Enhancer Filters or Didymium Filters to Reduce Urban 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

The Best Astrophotography Books

Digital Photography Night Sky: A Field Guide for Shooting after Dark

Digital Photography Night Sky: A Field Guide for Shooting after Dark

– Jennifer Wu and James Martin

Digital 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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Top Digital Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginners
Digital Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginners

Photos By Meta

Digital Photography Tips and Techniques For Beginners
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Blowing Rock, NC 28605
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Photos By Meta

Nature Photographs were shot by North Carolina Nature Photographer Meta Gätschenberger of Photos by Meta, with Sony Lenses and Minolta Lenses.

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