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Taking Pictures of the Moon and Lunar Eclipses

Lunar Eclipses and full Moons are beautiful to the naked eye, but they can be tricky to capture with a camera.

The Full Moon setting over Jobs Peak, Carson Valley, Nevada.

Moon over Jobs Peak, Nevada.

A bright full Moon can be tricky to capture using a camera.

©iStockphoto.com/Jason Woodcock

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Planning Your Moon Picture

The Best Time for Moon Pics

Illustration image
Total lunar eclipse in a cloudy sky.
A timeanddate.com user took this picture of a total lunar eclipse, or Blood Moon, in in a cloudy sky in 2015.

Moonrise and moonset are excellent times to get good Moon shots.

The absolute best time is as the Moon is setting and when the colors of the sky are rich; the Moon is coming up over the horizon and the surroundings are visible; or when the Sun is rising.

Mobile Camera?

The challenge is to capture the details of the Moon's surface. With most mobile cameras, you can't manually set the exposure, which controls the amount of light in the image. Most likely, you will only manage to capture the light from the Moon, and the Moon itself might come out looking like a blurry dot of light in the sky. Most mobile cameras also don't have a very powerful zoom, which you need to capture the surface details of the Moon.

DSLR, Zoom, Tripod and Timer

In order to make the Moon the focal point of the image and to capture the surface details, you'll need a DSLR or another camera with a zoom of 200 mm or above.

Illustration image
Zoom in to capture surface details.
In order to capture the Moon's surface details, you need a strong zoom.
  • A tripod or another stable surface where you can place your camera is useful to keep it still, especially when using slow shutter speeds.
  • A remote shutter or the timer on the camera prevents the camera from moving or shaking as you shoot the picture.

Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO

  • Use a low ISO-setting of 100 or 200.
  • Underexpose rather than overexpose the moon. The full Moon is bright and is actually moving slightly so a fast shutter speed and a medium aperture of f. 5.6 to 11 should be used.
  • During a Lunar Eclipse, there is less light, and although a small aperture is good for capturing the details on the Moon, you will have to let more light in with a lower f. number.
  • Use the viewfinder and your timer. It makes it easier to see your settings, and you can avoid camera shake.
  • You have time! A Full Moon or a Lunar Eclipse lasts for hours.
  • Keep shooting! Play around with different exposures and apertures. You will get that perfect shot.

Topics: Astronomy, Moon

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Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

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Eclipse Lookup

Lunar Eclipses

  1. Total Lunar Eclipse
  2. When is the Moon Red?
  3. Partial Lunar Eclipse
  4. Penumbral Lunar Eclipse
  5. Can I See a Lunar Eclipse?
  6. Blood Moon - Total Lunar Eclipse
  7. Magnitude of Eclipses

Eclipse Calculator w/ Animation

Moonrise & Moonset Times

Moon Phases In Your City

Sunrise & Sunset Times

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