While you may not be able to see it with the naked eye, photographing the Milky Way is not as difficult as it may seem. It’s easy to find remarkable photos online of the Milky Way glittering brightly, with a forest or other landscape in front of it, and to be disappointed… but it’s easier than you think. With a little planning and practice anyone with a camera – especially one of the Best camera for astrophotography – and a good lens that can capture the Milky Way. Be warned, though, that running around in the dark chasing our galaxy’s glowing arm can be addictive!
There’s a lot you can try as you take better photos of the Milky Way, but this guide will help you get started from the very beginning. There really isn’t much of a difference between shooting the Milky Way and regular astrophotography, although the timing and direction you shoot need to be considered. If you’re just starting out and want the basics, we’ve got you covered A beginner’s guide to astrophotography.
Basic equipment for spinning the Milky Way
It’s possible to capture the night sky with a phone camera these days, especially more modern ones with dedicated ‘night mode’, but for this tutorial we’ll focus (pun free). ) into the use of a DSLR or standard interchangeable-lens mirrorless camera. You will probably need:
- A camera – any DSLR or Mirrorless the camera will be fine
- A ‘fast’ lens – it is a lens with an aperture rating (f/number) of f/2.8 or faster. In general, we recommend using wider lenses (24mm or less) for beginners, as they are easier to use as a beginner.
- Tripod – most tripods are fine, but make sure it can hold your camera still! We have a guide for best tripod for astrology.
- Remote shutter release – you can use wired, wireless, or phone app release. Your camera’s built-in self-timer is a good alternative.
- Headlights have a red light mode – not necessary, but it can make a huge difference, as red light doesn’t affect your natural night vision.
Plan your shoot
Once you’ve got all your kits together, you’ll need to do some planning. Things to look for include: clear skies, dark sky locations, and the visible portion of the Milky Way in the sky. This means your camera is pointing in the right direction and at the correct angle, which is not always obvious.
The season of the Milky Way is generally considered to be from February to October. There are a lot of factors that affect its visibility, depending on your location and time of year, but we recommend using an app like Photopills, Star Walk 2, SkySafari 6 Proor Stellarium to choose the right time to go out based on your location. Generally, the Milky Way Core will be south, so keep that in mind when planning your shot.
In the end, you need clear skies, so keep an eye on the weather forecast!
Your proper setup
Before you leave the house, have your camera ready. This saves a lot of fumbling in the dark while gloves can be worn. Set your camera to Manual (M) mode, make sure you’re shooting in raw, and keep the screen brightness to a minimum.
You can practice the basic process in the dark in your garden or somewhere close to home before heading out.
Mount your camera on a tripod – it’s not always easy in the dark when the camera, lens, and tripod are all black – and practice focusing on the stars in the dark. You’ll almost certainly need to learn to focus manually, which can be a barrier for some, although digital cameras help a lot thanks to the screen on the back, meaning you don’t have to. need to peer through the viewfinder. Choose a bright star (or very distant light), use whatever kind of focus zoom you can (most cameras have this), and adjust the focus until the star/light appears as small as possible. Also, if you know the exact infinity focus point on your lens, you can use that, but be sure to check that it’s correct. When you are using a zoom lens, you will almost always have to refocus if you change the focal length.
Basic settings for capturing the Milky Way
Your exact settings will vary from night to night, but you should always use the widest/fastest aperture (f/lowest number) your lens will allow. If this is f/2 and you’re in an area with a bit of light pollution, then we recommend starting with f/2, ISO 3200 and 15 seconds.
ISO 1600-6400 is commonly used by Milky Way photographers, but keep in mind that the higher the ISO, the more noise you’ll get, although some modern mirrorless cameras have made significant strides forward. in producing clear high ISO images. We have a guide to noise reduction in astrophotographyif you need it.
Your shutter speed is important, because if you leave it open for too long, stars will start to appear, especially at the edges of the frame. Use 500 divided by the focal length of the lens (for full frames, try 300 for crop frames) to get the maximum exposure time to avoid slipping. Also, a bit of trial and error can be applied – keep adjusting the shutter speed and check the resulting image. Zoom in and as soon as the stars become ovals, you know you’ve gone too far.
Tips for your first shoot
Come to the site during the day if you can, to find out your location and set it up safely. Lock your tripods in place, use the compass to make sure you’re facing the right direction, mount the camera, connect the shutter, and check everything’s secure.
When it’s dark enough for the stars to be visible, focus on them and compose your final shot. By temporarily setting a very high ISO (ISO 12,000 or even higher if your camera supports it), you can take a quick test shot (2-3 seconds) to check your focus and composition, before remove it. It is probably very noisy, but serves a purpose.
Finally, dial in your main settings and dial. Review the image for sharp stars, making sure they don’t blur (check focus) or start trailing (increase shutter speed). Also don’t forget the basics like a straight horizon line and keeping some points of interest in the foreground in the frame.
Edit your Milky Way photo
Most digital photos and all raw will benefit from editing, and this is especially true for those trying to capture the Milky Way. Remember that editing is very much personal preference, so don’t be afraid to experiment. And check out our reviews of Best photo editing app.
The first thing to do after importing the file is to adjust the white balance. This is something you can only do if you’ve been shooting raw files – JPEG shooters are stuck with the settings from the camera – and can make a big difference to the colors in the image. Somewhere between 4000k-5000K usually works fine. You will almost certainly need to increase the exposure, and we often find photos need to be pushed up a stop or two.
We usually reduce the highlights and increase the contrast and shadows a bit, to really bring out the details of the dust lanes and highlights in the Milky Way. If you’re comfortable using radial gradients, they can be great for adding some emphasis to the final result. Try adjusting the transparency, brightness, and whiteness sliders to make the Milky Way a little more buoyant. Remember it is means white, on a dark background, so if you’re trying to keep the colors consistent, don’t freak out with any color adjustments. Don’t be afraid to experiment, though – the best thing about raw image processing is that it’s completely non-destructive, and you can always go back to your original image, or just use the Undo button, if you feel you’ve made a mistake. error.
https://www.space.com/how-to-photograph-the-milky-way-beginners-tips-tricks How to Photograph the Milky Way: A Guide for Beginners and Enthusiasts