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Photography Question 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/23/2006

How to Photograph at Night

I was playing around taking some night shots... I wanted to get more of the full moon in the shot but it, of course, just looks like a bright white light. Is there a way (filters to use?) that will help capture the actual moon?

10/12/2006 10:04:57 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Linda, what you are experiencing is the reality of dynamic range limitation - which exists in film as well as digital cameras. That is, there is a limit to how different the brightest and darkest portions of a single image can be and still get recorded.
The moon is much much brighter than the surroundings at night - even when to your eyes the full moon seems to illuminate everything so well. This means that if you expose the moon properly, you will greatly underexpose the night scene (to the point of black silhouette). Or, if you expose the scenery properly, the lens/shutter will need to stay open long enough that the moon itself is highly overexposed (to the point of being all white, or completely "blown out").
A filter over the entire lens won't help, as it will cut light of the entire view. If you could put a neutral density filter only over that portion of the image where the moon is, then you might have something (as well as solved a technologically impossible problem!) But an alternative could be to take two separate shots and overlay them.
Of course, to do this you'll need to use a tripod. Take one image exposed properly for the ground - let's say that's 16 seconds. Without moving the camera, take a second shot where just the moon gets proper exposure (perhaps 1/60th second). Then, with the computer, you can overlay on image on the other, and "erase" the portions of the upper image to display what's beneath it.

10/12/2006 11:39:52 AM

BetterPhoto Member

member since: 5/23/2006
  That makes perfect sense - I'll have to experiment with separate shots and the computer.

Thank you SO much!

10/16/2006 8:28:56 AM

Bob Fately

member since: 4/11/2001
  Sure - that's what we're all here for! Good luck, and have fun.

10/16/2006 8:42:42 AM

Margie Hurwich
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/16/2005
  Linda, there is a member here named Wayne Fisk who captures all the details of the moon. However, saying that, it is very rare that he captures the moon along with any foreground. You can find him at:
Good luck!

10/16/2006 10:14:53 AM

Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/31/2005
  I have a full disc moon shot that I took with a 1000mm lens. I will gladly share it with anyone who would like it.

10/16/2006 10:31:26 AM

David Cook

member since: 9/17/2005
I was helping my daughter take pics of the moon in its various phases for a school project and if you are shooting a full moon (stop laughing) I found the best results came from using a 200mm lens with a doubler and at 1/250. When you isolate just the full moon, you end up with a lot of light to work with and they came out pretty well. I have them posted under other shots on our web site-

10/17/2006 6:17:41 AM

Scott L. Burnett

member since: 9/30/2005
  do you know the sunny f/16 rule?
it states (its not really a rule like every other rule in photography....) in an open full sun scene if you set your exposure to f/16 and the reciprical of your iso I.E.400 iso, 1/400 sec shutter speed. you should be properly exposed this is a good rule for when you are around sand snow or other meter fooling situations.
the moon gets its light from.... you guessed directly from the sun, so does the sunny f/16 rule work with the moon, you betcha! and go with bobs tripod and multiple exposure idea. I think there is an article here somewhere about it.
keep shooting,

10/17/2006 6:52:02 AM

David S. Nadal
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/14/2005
  Since we're speaking of rules that aren't really, one of my instructors told me that, as a counterpoint to the Sunny f/16 rule, there is also an Loony f/11 rule for shooting the moon. I haven't had a chance to try it, but he was right about a lot of other stuff!

10/17/2006 8:04:05 AM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  My answer is to photograph the moon (on it's own, ignore the surroundings) then etch it and save it in a "layered Photoshop file - PSD". You can then use your best moon shot over and over again just by adding it to all your future shots, as an overlay - with the added advantage of being able to place it wherever you want. I have a mini library of moon shots.
Is this cheating? Who cares? It works!!! Is adding filters and other photo tricks also cheating? Who cares? The result is in the pudding.

10/17/2006 8:15:24 AM

Elsie van Rooyen

member since: 1/22/2006
I also have trouble taking pictures of the moon, but on September 8th of this year, I actually managed to capture the big cheesy moon exactly as it looked. I zoomed in and used my flash and could not believe it when I saw the colour of the moon. I also took two pictures with the moon "peeping" through the branches of a tree, also golden with the branches highlighted as a result of the flash. Maybe it was my lucky night, because normally the flash highlights the foreground and the moon is still this white colour.
I have found that it sometimes help to zoom in on the moon. My camera is a Fujifinepix S5500

Elsie from South Africa

10/17/2006 12:32:12 PM

Dennis Creaghan

member since: 10/21/2002
Getting the moon alone is really quite simple:f5.6@250 or f8@125 will do the job nicely and with a long lens you'll get goood detail. Underexpose it half a stop and it shows up well.


10/17/2006 12:46:57 PM

John Pickard

member since: 12/27/2004
  If you're still shooting with film, you can make an in camera double exposure combining the moon with your subject. The trick is to shoot your main scene when the moon is out of your viewfinder and take your scene using enough exposure to illuminate the details you want. Re cock the shutter if you camera allows (without letting the film move)and then take another picture including the moon where you want it placed. You have to remember where in the frame you left a spot to place the moon. With this process you could put on your longest lens to make the moon larger in your finished image. Of course, a tripod is essential for both images. John Pickard

10/17/2006 8:24:30 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/11/2003
  "...I also have trouble taking pictures of the moon, but on September 8th of this year, I actually managed to capture the big cheesy moon exactly as it looked. I zoomed in and used my flash..."

Can't help but laugh at that.

10/17/2006 10:08:56 PM

Elsie van Rooyen

member since: 1/22/2006
  I have the photos on my computer, Gregory, tried to upload it last night, but uploading was very slow.
If you like, I can send it to your personal e-mail.
Incidentally, I do take very nice night shots using my flash or rather, the camera's flash, and have other good moon photos, but not as good as the ones I mentioned last night.

10/18/2006 12:18:12 PM

Elsie van Rooyen

member since: 1/22/2006
Second try to upload my moon photos.

10/18/2006 12:47:45 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/11/2003
  Lighting the moon with the flash, that was the funny part.

10/18/2006 11:15:39 PM

dennis w. mcclain

member since: 8/2/2004
  a full moon is very flat with little contrast. to get really dramatic shots, try shooting a half moon. focus on the terminator( the part were light meets dark. the shadows from the sun striking it edge on give more relief to the picture. thats just my $0.02

10/19/2006 1:36:55 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 11/11/2003
  It's got contrast. Just that if you don't spend the money for something that's good and will reach it, you're going to be using a low quality one that's not going to give good contrast.

10/19/2006 8:43:35 PM


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