The night sky is an awe-inspiring photography subject, yet also an intimidating one. You have to be the right location at the right time, with enough knowledge of the exposure triangle to take a good picture in low light. These challenges can discourage photographers from going out and shooting the night sky. That’s unfortunate because the night sky is amazingly beautiful.
Getting nice photos of the night sky takes a bit of learning and a lot of practice – plus a decent camera and a tripod with a cable release. Nothing else. As breathtaking as astrophotography is, it doesn’t require expert skills. It’s just a matter of going out and doing it.
Here are some great tips and tutorials to get you started.
Simple Tips for Photographing the Night Sky – The Photo Argus
This post from our archives was written by Grant Ordelheide, an experienced outdoor photographer. He offers some basic (and not-so-basic) suggestions for getting incredible night sky photos. For additional tips from Grant, check out his other post, How to Get Started Shooting Nighttime Landscapes.
A Beginner’s Guide to Improving Your Night Photography – Click and Learn
This guide covers it all: gear, camera settings, planning, and composition. It’s a good place to start if you know nothing and want to learn everything.
How to Take Professional-Quality Photos of the Stars and Night Sky – Backpacker
This post provides clear-cut instructions for various situations and types of images, from simple star photos to moonlit landscapes. It’s thorough yet easy to read.
5 Tips for Capturing the Night Sky with Your Smartphone – EyeEm
Left your DSLR at home? No problem! Smartphones can take cool night sky photos, too. This post offers a few tips to help you get the most out of your smartphone at night.
After you’ve filled your mind with knowledge, it’s time to go out and try it yourself! Below are some inspiring examples to get you motivated, as well as some ideas for interesting subjects.
The Milky Way
The Milky Way has a low surface brightness, which means it’s difficult to see if the sky is too bright. For example, if there’s a full, bright moon or a lot of light pollution, the Milky Way is one of the first sights to disappear. You definitely won’t see it from a city, but you might get a glimpse of it near a small town. It’s so spectacular that it’s worth traveling to a remote area to just to see and photograph it.
Another unforgettable sight is the Aurora, also known as the Aurora Borealis or the Northern Lights in the Northern Hemisphere. The moving streaks of color have an eerie beauty that is unlike anything else. If you’re ever lucky enough to see them, you’ll definitely want to know how to shoot the night sky.
Lightning isn’t often thought of as a night sky subject, but in fact, it combines really well with stars. But even if you can’t get a shot of stars alongside the storm, at least you can get a cool photo of lightning against the dark sky.
When the night sky is cloudy or bright with light pollution, you can still get great shots of a full moon. It shines through the clouds and remains stunning, even with light pollution. It’s a good subject to capture if you’re ever stuck in the city on a beautiful night.
Silhouettes are another subject to consider if you’re stuck near light pollution. A good silhouette can look striking even if the background stars are dim. Of course, if you can get awesome stars with the silhouette, that’s even better.
When you take a long exposure of a starry night sky for longer than about 30 seconds, you’ll end up with streaks of light instead of stars. These star trails are the result of the Earth rotating on its axis. Though star trails can be challenging to photograph, they’re a lovely way to add movement and energy to your image.
Night Sky Reflections
A clear body of water can make a night sky twice as impressive by reflecting it. Nearly any source of water could work, as long as it’s smooth and calm. Canals, lakes, marshes, and even puddles can all lead to beautiful, dreamlike images.
Many of the above images were selected from our community on Flickr. Got a nice photo of the night sky? Share it with us so we can appreciate your work!