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Help with Night Photography

PhilAJ 16 112 United Kingdom
3 Oct 2019 9:10AM
My first attempt at some Night Photography - and didn't go well. (ignore the composition for now)

I did read a lot of advice first - shot this (first one) - at f5.6, 46mm, ISO800, 7seconds. I had focused to infinity and set at Manual Focus

Everything looks blurred, and the stars are blurred. Should I have done a few bracketed shots and HDR'd?


I also tried to did some longer exposures, (2nd one) where the foreground was 'lit' with a torch - but just not good. This was 34secs, f5.6, 15mm, iso800


Any Help any advice gratefully received

Thanks in advice.
3 Oct 2019 9:49AM
I would guess (Definition not high enough to see clearly) that the stars are not blurred but have moved in the frame. If you had your camera on a tripod and you had set the timer and you had a remote release for the shutter and it wasn't windy then blur shouldn't happen, but the earth moves, actually very fast. Many star photographers do actually take many shots and 'stack' them.

I would suggest that you search on Flickr for Photographs of the Milky Way and read the exif of the images.
This guy does a lot and is always very generous with the details he posts of the images he has taken.
Dave_Canon 16 2.2k United Kingdom
3 Oct 2019 9:52AM
I am sure one of the Astro-photographers can advise. I know many use very long exposures and combined multiple exposures for the amazing star trails. However, one specific point is setting your lens to infinity may not be what you expect. Some lenses actually focus beyond infinity particularly long lenses. This is to allow for expansion when hot. So in those cases you do need to focus carefully manually.

PhilAJ 16 112 United Kingdom
3 Oct 2019 9:54AM
Thanks Tianshi and Dave.

Yes I was on a tripod, and used cable release.

Maybe multiple and stacking could be the answer.....and I'll try focusing better.
Jasper87 Plus
13 3.3k 165 England
3 Oct 2019 11:44AM
Have you hear of the 500 rule? Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens and that should be your maximum shutter speed. If you are using a 50mm lens then this would mean 10 secs max. Open the lens to its widest apperture and set the iso at a fairly high iso. If the image is too dark then increase the iso. You really need to be away from urban areas to cut down the light pollution.

A torch can be used briefly during exposure to light up the foreground....trial and error to get the best effect. Alternatively you could expose for foreground then another for the sky and stack them together.

The next step would be to get serious using star trackers and specific software.
779HOB 11 1.2k United Kingdom
3 Oct 2019 12:08PM
I found this video useful - How to take pictures of stars
dark_lord Plus
19 3.0k 836 England
3 Oct 2019 8:26PM
7 seconds is enough for camera shutter and mirror vibration to settle down and not be an issue, Vibration of the whole setup during that time is of course possible. Wind and traffic can cause it for example. Rule those out and it's likely a focus issue. so it doesn't matter how much care and sophistication goes into a technoque if the focus is off.

Stacking is worth trying, and while I haven't done that specifically I have shot the night sky but used 6400 ISO and lit the foreground with a torch effectively but for much less time than i used for the sky.

This is not a subject for HDR.

Make sure you're well away from any light pollution and that includes even small villages.
3 Oct 2019 11:08PM
If you are getting really serious about astrophotography it might be worth getting yourself a Tracking Mount. That is a high precision device that fits on your tripod. The camera is mounted on top of it. It turns the camera to follow the stars.
I used to fool around with star photography many years ago and made a thing called a "barn door tracker". That basically consisted of two pieces of wood joined with a hinge at the ends in a V shape and with a length of screw thread between them, plus some bits from an old electric meter to gear down the screw. One side was fixed to the tripod while the other carried the camera. You turned the screw to move the free end of the thing round on the hinge to follow the stars. You need to be a bit of a minor crackpot to make one of these. The most difficult bit was the mathematics. Did actually work.
Have fun with your star photography. Look forward to seeing some of your photos.
PhilAJ 16 112 United Kingdom
4 Oct 2019 10:31AM
Thank you all for you help and advice...will start taking on board and hopefully get it right.

sherlob Plus
17 3.3k 133 United Kingdom
4 Oct 2019 10:59AM
There are numerous issues likely here - some have been mentioned above. Astro photography requires ruthless planning and represents a really technical discipline imho.

A few tips:

1. As mentioned above - infinity on your lens doesn't necessarily equate with infinity (have a play with your lens & I bet the lens will focus beyond the infinity mark). So focus needs to be reviewed in the field and adjusted.

2. As stated, due to the earths rotation, movement has to be planned for. Minimum variables to factor include your focal length and shutter speed. The rule of 500 is a good starting point, but to be honest its not the best. An app like photopills will allow you to calculate acceptable (and best) shutter speeds for any given focal length. In addition these can be invaluable when planning a specific composition.

3. Light sensitivity. TBH a F5.6 and ISO 800 will allow enough light in to record anything but the brightest stars. Astro really does call for fast apertures and high ISO's - often using image stacking to reduce noise in post processing. If you take look at any of my limited astro pics you'll note I use a minimum of F2.8 (my current lens allows F2.4) and an ISO usually above 3200 - often going to 6400 or 128000. Fast glass needn't be expensive. E.g. take a look at the Canon 50mm F1.8 (the so called nifty 50) or the Samyang 14mm F2.8 - both get great reviews for astro.

Have a look at for some excellent video/web tutorials.

Hope this helps.
sherlob Plus
17 3.3k 133 United Kingdom
4 Oct 2019 12:58PM
Its worth adding that if you use a torch to light the foreground in any of the major locations for astro photography you'll find yourself becoming unpopular rather quickly... A better alternative is to take an image in the blue hour, or a much longer exposure and blend this into your image in post.
PhilAJ 16 112 United Kingdom
4 Oct 2019 1:37PM
Thanks sherlob
sherlob Plus
17 3.3k 133 United Kingdom
4 Oct 2019 2:19PM

Quote:TBH a F5.6 and ISO 800 will allow enough light in

should read:

Quote:TBH F5.6 and ISO 800 will won't allow enough light in
23 Dec 2020 10:54AM
While the exact settings will change from picture to picture, the ideal settings for night photography is a high ISO (typically starting at 1600), an open aperture (such as f/2.8 or f/4) and the longest possible shutter speed as calculated with the 500 or 300 rule.

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cheddar-caveman 19 1.3k England
27 Feb 2021 4:25PM
My camera is a Sony RX10M4
Just come across this thread and having just (last September) got into astrophotography, the single biggest challenge I found to begin with was getting sharp focus. It is no good just setting the camera to infinity, that is past infinity in most cases. If your camera has some method of Focus Assist, as mine has, the star goes red when in sharp focus (because I chose red) but even this isn't enough I found so I just invested a few pounds in a Bahtinov mask. Very simple to use, just put it in front of the lens, aim at a bright star (magnify if you camera can) and you get a clear six sided star when in focus.
Bahtinov mask

The "star" you get when in focus.

The next thing you will definitely need is a Polar tracking mount to mount you camera on, to counter the rotation of the earth. For any exposure greater than a couple of seconds you will get star trails unless you have one and most astro exposures you're talking 30sec+ exposures.
A couple of my first attempts......

Andromeda Galaxy

Orion Nebula...........

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