Technology & Science

Some camera and iPhone tips for shooting a lunar eclipse

Unlike solar eclipses, photographing the Earth's shadow on the moon doesn't require any special equipment. All an aspiring astral photographer needs is a camera (or camera-equipped smartphone), a steady hand and an app or two.

Moonless eclipse-nights are also a good time for shooting the Milky Way

CBC Photographer Evan Mitsui, with his trusty Fujifilm XT-1 in hand, dishes photo tips and tricks for capturing images of the upcoming lunar eclipse. (Timothy Neesam/CBC)

Unlike solar eclipses, photographing the Earth's shadow on the moon doesn't require any special equipment. All an aspiring astral photographer needs is a camera (or camera-equipped smartphone), a steady hand and an app or two.

To get a good shot you will need some manual control over your camera settings and, ideally, a spot away from city lights. Then, depending on your equipment, decide if you want a close-up of the moon or a wide shot.

Note that shooting wide will make the moon appear small so compose your shot with something interesting in the foreground to give it more pop.

Because it can be difficult to focus in the dark, use your camera's auto focus to lock in on a distant light source (not the stars or moon) before tilting the camera skyward and locking your tripod down.

This will keep the foreground you've carefully composed sharp without sacrificing moon clarity.

Alternatively, if you have a manual focus lens, dial it just back from infinity to achieve the same effect.

If you're shooting a close-up with a telephoto lens or a point-and-shoot with a zoom, focus right on the moon.

Set the exposure

Typically, star shots are best with a wide open aperture (small f-stop number) and a relatively slow shutter speed, somewhere in the neighbourhood of 5-30 seconds, with an ISO around 1000 or more depending on your camera's sensor size.

However, since the moon is brighter than your average star, use these settings as a baseline and, most likely, you will need to dial them back until you've got a balanced exposure. Every camera is different so there are no real magic numbers. Just arrive early and do some test shots.

If you're shooting with an iPhone running IOS 8, the Manual app, $2.99 in the App Store, will allow you to use the same techniques to turn your camera phone into a near dSLR-quality star-shooting machine.

If you don't have the Manual app, try using the built-in focus lock feature to set the exposure on a bright, foreground light source — like a flashlight — then, when its locked in, tilt your phone skyward and snap a shot of the moon.

If you have access to a telescope, even a cheap one, try rigging your iPhone so that you can focus the camera through it. There are some great examples on Instagram.

Star shooters looking to capture the Blood Moon on April 4 and who can get away from light pollution will have the added benefit of a moonlight-less sky, making it easier to see the Milky Way, another great night photo-op.

To capture the Milky Way like in the Instagram example above, use as big an aperture as your lens will allow (f1.2-f2.8 is ideal), a slow shutter speed (somewhere between 5-20 seconds) and an ISO in the neighbourhood of 2500 to get a shot like this one.

Whatever you're shooting with, apps like Sky Guide and Luna Solaria will help show you where and when the moon will be visible, depending on your location.

To get a shot with the moon tracking across the sky, use a multiple exposure technique to combine a series of shots into one. To do this, you'll need to know which direction the moon is moving to frame your shot accordingly.

More tips for astral photography can be found in our @CBCPhoto Twitter stream.

Happy shooting!

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