How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse - Digital Photography School

How to Photograph a Lunar Eclipse

Today is be the final lunar eclipse of the year. It will be visible for those of us in Tokyo, Japan starting at ~4:20pm, it will reach it’s greatest magnitude ~5:17pm, will begin to recede at 5:53pm and will be over by 7:01pm. If you are not in Japan, you can check out NASA’s website for information on your area.

lunar-eclipse.jpg

I am going to try to shoot the eclipse if time permits so I wanted to make sure my ‘moon shooting skills’ were up to snuff. Shooting the moon is actually much easier than you might think. Here is how I approached it:

Focal Length:

First you need a focal length of ~300mm. I actually talked myself out of not buying new camera equipment (there is a first time for everything) and got away with a 200mm with a 1.4 telecoverter giving me a focal length of 280mm.

ISO:

You want to put your ISO as low as possible. In my case I used ISO100. I actually tried ISO 50 but the 100 shot looked better.

Aperture:

You’ll want to set your aperture at f/11 to make sure you capture all of the details in the moon’s surface.

Additional Setting:

I set my camera into Live View mode, I manually focused using the LCD screen and zooming in 10x and then released with Profoto Airsync remote release, all sitting on a Manfrotto 055CX3 with two 3KG weights to keep everything stable.

Post Processing:

In Photoshop CS5, I adjusted the curves to medium contrast and applied an unsharp mask filter (amount 150%, radius 1.0, threshold 0)

Summary of the settings:

Canon 5DMKII, Canon EF 200mm f/2.8 L, 1.4x teleconverter, 1/125, f/11, ISO100, shot in Live View, manually focused, released with Profoto Airsync.

Give it a try, you might be pleasantly surprised…

Dave Powell is a photographer based in Tokyo, Japan. He writes Shoot Tokyo photography blog. You can see more of his work at www.shoottokyo.com or follow him on Twitter (shoottokyo)

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  • http://www.metarazzi.com Jeff

    Whoops… I tapped on to an old thread. I’m shooting the last eclipse of 2011. ;-)

  • http://twinwaterfallsec.net punggol ec

    You really make it seem really easy together with your presentation but I to find this matter to be really one thing which I feel I might by no means understand. It sort of feels too complicated and extremely huge for me. I’m looking forward for your subsequent submit, I will try to get the cling of it!

  • Miranda

    Have any tips for if you don’t have a zoom lens?

  • Lorna

    Mine came out very very dark

  • Bill

    The parameters discussed in the article work for shooting the moon, not an eclipse. I got some nice pictures of the total eclipse by using ISO 640, f/5.6, and shutter speeds of 1 to 2 seconds. ISO 100, f/11 and any reasonable shutter speed produced a black image

Some older comments

  • punggol ec

    December 11, 2011 04:44 am

    You really make it seem really easy together with your presentation but I to find this matter to be really one thing which I feel I might by no means understand. It sort of feels too complicated and extremely huge for me. I'm looking forward for your subsequent submit, I will try to get the cling of it!

  • Jeff

    December 9, 2011 02:45 am

    Whoops... I tapped on to an old thread. I'm shooting the last eclipse of 2011. ;-)

  • Jeff

    December 9, 2011 02:40 am

    Thanks for the quick tip on settings. I planned to shoot at f/16, even f/22, but will after thinking about your tip I'll definitely open the aperture a little more because I don't want to risk any movement because of a longer shutter or even vibrations on the tripod. I'm glad to be in Idaho (near Boise) and can sleep in until a usual morning time. I have a perfect location picked out about a mile from a huge barn, so that I can frame the barn in front of the moon at 480mm to give the moon a larger than life look. I want to try some bracketed shots for an HDR composite. It's risky, because the moon will be very close to the almost flat horizon at total eclipse, so hope to be able to see the whole thing before it dips under at ~7:30a MST (-7UTC).

  • Mike Thorsen

    December 28, 2010 04:28 am

    Unfortunate that this issue arrived in my inbox two days AFTER the lunat eclips.... Oh well..

  • Terence

    December 24, 2010 06:11 pm

    I'm using canon 550d with 55-250mm lens to shot this:
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/terence_yeo/4926145179/

  • mossback

    December 24, 2010 03:12 pm

    I found this article after the fact. I'm about 3 months into post point and shoot. Using a Rebel T2I, Tamron 18-270, kit tripod. Learning experience with the tripod. Started at f40, iso 100, 1/60 and bracketing for about the first 30 photos. Ended at f 11, iso 1600, 25 second exposure. Exhausting night for a newbie.

  • Guy

    December 24, 2010 12:38 pm

    Just hope I can remember this until April 15, 2014, then next time I'll be able to see a total eclipse of the moon.

  • Gina

    December 24, 2010 07:19 am

    What is the saying,,, A Day Late and a Dollar Short... this would have been great info a few days ago.

  • SITHSPAWN

    December 24, 2010 05:51 am

    Great help but I found it to late. Hopefully I'll be able to do it next time there is an eclipse.

  • Ken Barber

    December 24, 2010 04:21 am

    Wish I had received the eclipse tips before Dec 23rd. I had to fend for myself:

    http://travelwp.com/2010-1221-eclipse-of-the-moon-page.htm

  • Manvendra

    December 24, 2010 03:49 am

    Have a look on this.

    href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/kmanvendra/5279233590/" title="Full Moon by dr@gon 'the clickr', on Flickr">[/img]

    And here is the EXIF
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/kmanvendra/5279233590/meta/[img]<a

  • Eddie Griffiths

    December 24, 2010 03:34 am

    a bit late for us, we had it two days ago......mine were rubbish. I tried manual exposure, live view 1/iso(200) f8
    only had 200mm lens.

    Too much to crop and too wobbly. It was awefully windy here and the moon was on the horizon, too much atmospherics. My excuse.

  • eric epie

    December 24, 2010 02:48 am

    Oops sorry I missed to attach the link so here it is:

    http://s399.photobucket.com/albums/pp75/du9gvu/?action=view&current=fulleclipse.jpg

  • Eric Epie

    December 24, 2010 02:20 am

    Oops I missed my link so here it is again.

    Hi there, I like to share you my lunar eclipse photo taken from my backyard around 1230am @ -17C freezing temperature. I had a hard time getting the sharpest image because it’s too damn hard to rotate the focus ring manually under a freezing setting. But still was able to get very nice shots. Here’s a 3 exposure merged together to show a once in a lifetime Winter Solstice lunar eclipse. Hope you like it.

    action=view&current=fulleclipse.jpg[eimg url='http://s399.photobucket.com/albums/pp75/du9gvu/?action=view&current=fulleclipse.jpg' title='?action=view&current=fulleclipse.jpg']

  • Eric Epie

    December 24, 2010 02:18 am

    Hi there, I like to share you my lunar eclipse photo taken from my backyard around 1230am @ -17C freezing temperature. I had a hard time getting the sharpest image because it's too damn hard to rotate the focus ring manually under a freezing setting. But still was able to get very nice shots. Here's a 3 exposure merged together to show a once in a lifetime Winter Solstice lunar eclipse. Hope you like it.

  • hasanhusaini

    December 24, 2010 01:57 am

    my job..

    http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1315/5117977375_4dd19ba266_m.jpg

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hasanhusaini/4636354221/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hasanhusaini/5117977375/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/hasanhusaini/4709785621/

    Canon EOS 7D + 100-400 IS USM + Tamron 2X Teele Converter..

  • Jon Coley

    December 23, 2010 02:37 pm

    hmm almost the same settings I used except for a 300mm lens and shot at f/16.
    You managed to capture some great detail on the Moon's surface....very nicely done.

  • jeff d

    December 23, 2010 11:49 am

    I'm new on dps. One thing that have done is making sure the view finder is blocked and using a remote.
    What can happen is light relcts through a lense like 300mm and you can get another moon. It will look like two planetes or moons side by side. So if you want 1 moon , black out view finder on digital or film slr's.
    Been there,done that. Happy Holidays and a safe New Year.

  • Diana Mikaels

    December 22, 2010 12:28 pm

    I agree with those who mentioned that this is about shooting the full moon.

    I needed a 1600 ISO setting for this eclipse (Dec 21, 2010), and together with @f/4 I couldn't get it down 2-second exposure (during the full lunar eclipse).

    Dream of f/11 and ISO 100 !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This is appreciated, though! Thanks!

  • Hubman

    December 22, 2010 11:50 am

    Too bad this was posted barely 2 hrs before the eclipse started here in the eastern US

    Of course, it's also too bad we had cloud cover...

    But good advice in general for shooting the moon!

  • Tim

    December 22, 2010 11:34 am

    Good info and was similar to the way I captured the Feb 2008 Lunar Eclipse -- only I had to use a lap top for "live view" on my old Canon 20D. I also used ISO 400 or 800 when the moon reached total eclipse in order to keep the shutter speed under a second -- to much motion blur with longer shutter speeds.

    I did something different this time -- set the camera up and went to bed. It was much warmer that way ;)
    http://radiantviewphotography.blogspot.com/2010/12/total-lunar-eclipse-20101221.html

  • Dave

    December 22, 2010 09:14 am

    Thanks Ryan. You are right the title should have been how to shoot the moon which is what I was doing while preparing to shoot the eclipse. Clouds ruined it so wait until June 2011....

  • Skip Bradley

    December 22, 2010 05:26 am

    Focused at infinity, I'm not seeing how f/11 is going to "capture all of the details in the moon’s surface".

  • Sarah

    December 22, 2010 05:07 am

    Here is the best I could do. It is super cropped... I only have a 200mm lens. Getting focus was tough!! I'm still pleased with my results though- first time shooting the moon. http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarahfaucette/5280463993/

  • Steve

    December 22, 2010 03:22 am

    Don't forget mirror lock up!

  • DerekL

    December 22, 2010 02:56 am

    Nice one Doug! Ended up with clouds and rain here sadly.

  • Ryan

    December 22, 2010 02:51 am

    This is neat and helpful, but it doesn't actually tell how to shoot a lunar eclipse -- it only tells how to shoot the moon when it's fully illuminated. Shooting an eclipse is a lot different because there's so much more to consider -- is it a total or partial eclipse? If it's partial, how do you balance capturing the bright part as well as the dark area of the moon? If it's total, how long should the shutter be open (1/125 sure won't cut it), keeping in mind that the moon is moving and if you're zoomed in without a telescope mount, you will be able to detect that movement in a long exposure.

    Misleading title, but not a bad article for what it actually teaches.

  • Efrain

    December 22, 2010 02:32 am

    whatever... just look at www.flickr.com/photos/ebojorq ... if you want to, of course.

  • Efrain

    December 22, 2010 02:30 am

    Sorry... for some reason it didn't embed the pictures... here are the links:

    Just at the beginning I was trying with a circular polarizer to get rid of some glare… for this shot, though, the clouds took care of that.

    This was my last shot. Like with Doug Sundseth, in Denver, we had also thin clouds for most of the night, but just after this shot it was very thick until the eclipse had gone by.

  • Efrain

    December 22, 2010 02:25 am

    Darn!! I should've read this before shooting... anyhow, I don't have a teleconverter or a 300 mm (and talked myself out of buying it too) but I think I got away with some cool shots... I'll try some PP on them later. For now I'll have to settle for this:

    Just at the beginning I was trying with a circular polarizer to get rid of some glare... for this shot, though, the clouds took care of that.

    This was my last shot. Like with Doug Sundseth, in Denver, we had also thin clouds for most of the night, but just after this shot it was very thick until the eclipse had gone by.

  • Doug Sundseth

    December 22, 2010 12:56 am

    Near totality:

    Lunar Eclipse from Denver

    200mm, F5.6, ISO200, 4" exposure.

    Note the difference in exposure between that picture and this half moon picture:

    Half Moon over Denver

    200mm, F13, ISO1600, 1/250"

  • cara

    December 22, 2010 12:53 am

    I'm pretty pleased with the results, certainly better than I thought! Thanks for the tips!
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cararosephotos/5279787576/in/photostream/

  • Mahmood CASSIM

    December 21, 2010 08:51 pm

    Hi Darren,

    Firstly: Many, many thank you for the insightful information on your newsletters and website. I've learnt a tremendous amount and also passed on the information to others.

    Secondly: Wishing you, your family and associates a blessed and peaceful festive season.

    Finally: I've been photographing the full moon for the past four months (weather permitting!) with mixed results. Using manual settings, its been a case of hit or miss. The results have been satisfactory considering my limited knowledge, equipment and software.

    Keep up the good work. Kind regards and best wishes for 2011.

    Mahmood Cassim
    - Johannesburg, South Africa.

  • Matthew Rigdon

    December 21, 2010 08:06 pm

    You'll want to take into account diffraction when choosing your aperture as well. You can figure out where your camera is diffraction limited by using the calculator on this page. F11 should be fine with a full frame sensor like the 5Dmk2, but if you're shooting with an APS-C sensor and different resolution, you may not want to exceed f8 for maximum sharpness. Also, make sure to use Spot Metering, Center-Weighted if your camera lacks that first setting.

  • Leslie

    December 21, 2010 07:22 pm

    I have to laugh. I opened my computer to read something about the solstice and was reminded about the eclipse. I run outside to look. I go to get my simple Canon point and shoot. I realize that I can't possibly keep still long enough to get a good photo. So I run in and get a shoe. So I spend about 15 minutes trying to frame the moon at 10x zoom and still get the camera into the shoe so it'll be still. I can't. So I think. Think. I realize I have a telescope. I spend 15 minutes trying to get the telescope off the tripod. I can't. So I say to myself, "Self, I'll electrical tape the camera onto the barrel of the telescope!!" So I spend some time doing that. Then I go outside and the moon is no longer in total eclipse. I spend about 30 minutes taking photos using a timer delay to get the shot so I'm not pressing on the button (which makes the tape stretch and the barrel of the telescope move as well--10 seconds was needed to allow the telescope kind of "relax" back into position). Finally, I give up (what can I do with a point and shoot anyway? Then I open my blog roll and read this and realize that my settings were likely all wrong! haha!

  • Asad C.

    December 21, 2010 06:29 pm

    Really wish I'd seen this a few months ago.
    Still shot tonight at similar settings with my p&s.
    (well as close as I could get)

  • Rob McCance

    December 21, 2010 04:43 pm

    Conditions deteriorating here in ATL as well. Clouds thickening. Will keep going out there every 20-30 mins. It's like 20 something degrees.

  • DerekL

    December 21, 2010 04:39 pm

    All set here near Seattle too... Of course when I was taking my setup shots, we had gaps in the clouds. Now that the hour is nigh, nothing but haze.

  • Rob McCance

    December 21, 2010 04:18 pm

    I'm all set here in Atlanta. Been playing with the settings and I'm at f8 / 1/250 ISO100.

    But my lens is too short: 135mm F2 L Canon on a D60.

    Also, we have a light haze which is really hampering things.

    Oh well, will give it all a try.

  • Parmveer Masuta

    December 21, 2010 04:15 pm

    Thank you! I've been messing around with the settings and I was soooo close to yours except for the aperture part, but I am going to give this a try when I see the eclipse here in California. Well that is if the clouds don't get in my way.

  • Dan B

    December 21, 2010 04:07 pm

    I got overcast skies here. Real let down. Although, thank you for the post. I missed the eclipse, but one of these days I'll get a killin' full moon shot. Every now and then I get a real nice moon view and clean night from my apartment balcony.

  • Lloyd Barnes

    December 21, 2010 04:05 pm

    For the total eclipse, which is a lot dimmer than the normal full moon, you will need a longer shutter speed. I agree with Keerthi Kiran M - you might need to go to ISO 400 to prevent blurring during the exposure caused by the earth's rotation. Here are some tips:

    http://blog.lloydkbarnes.com/2010/12/13/how-to-photograph-the-lunar-eclipse/

    It looks like it will be cloudy in Vancouver, where I am, but I'm looking forward to seeing photos from other locations tomorrow!

  • Dave

    December 21, 2010 04:03 pm

    Dereki, the exposure is 1/125.

  • DerekL

    December 21, 2010 03:44 pm

    No exposure time? Just f stop and ISO? Not to mention, what you've photographed is the (nearly) full moon, not the eclipse.

    Check out: http://www.nyip.com/ezine/outdoors/eclipse.html for full information on how to photograph the eclipse.

  • David Garcia

    December 21, 2010 03:31 pm

    What is the shutter speed? :)

  • Felicia Broschart

    December 21, 2010 03:28 pm

    I am so bummed, I live in So. California and we are getting dumped on with rain...no chance of any shots. It hardly ever rains here and it had to be this week! Can't wait to see everyone else's shots.

  • Keerthi Kiran M

    December 21, 2010 03:28 pm

    Hi
    These settings wont work at the time of eclipse when the moon will be pretty faint. Longer exposures will be needed. But long exposures result in blurry images (because moon moves in the sky due to earth's rotation). So use higher ISO (ISO 400) and check foe exposure time. All the best.
    Here at my place (India), we wont be able to see the eclipse. Hoping to see some good pics on DPS...

  • Wayfaring Wanderer

    December 21, 2010 03:15 pm

    I'll be staying up late to catch a glimpse! We'll see if these tips help :D

    ~WW

  • skydvr

    December 21, 2010 02:56 pm

    appreciate the tips, but I can't imagine that a single setting will work throughout an eclipse. Sounds like the article is more about shooting a full moon, rather than a lunar eclipse.

    appreciate the "starting point" though...

  • Rob McCance

    December 21, 2010 02:53 pm

    Great tips. I've got the alarm set for 1:30 EST here tonight in Atlanta. Hopefully that light layer of clouds will break.

  • Joel

    December 21, 2010 02:42 pm

    Thanx for this bit of info!

  • Joel

    December 21, 2010 02:42 pm

    I'm getting ready to shoot it here in Jamaica too. Hoping to get some good shots.

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