Photograph The Moon — March 19, 2011

Written by:

By Steve Russell

Whether you’ve photographed the moon numerous times or have just thought about doing it, Saturday evening, March 19, 2011, is a must do evening. On that evening the moon will be at its perigee (closest to the Earth) and according to one article I read it will appear 14% larger than normal. This event, the full moon at its perigee will not occur again until the year 2029. If you have an open horizon, you might want to begin photographing as soon as the moons starts to peep over the horizon.


If you aren’t sure how to do this here are a few tips:

Use a tripod – you want your camera to be as steady as absolutely possible. If you want a really good image of the moon IS or VR isn’t going to be enough.

Use the longest lens you have – I will be using a 300mm lens with a 1.4X Telephoto Extenter but if a 24-105mm was all I had, I would use that fully zoomed to 105mm.

Use a Remote Shutter Release if you have one. That way you won’t have to touch the camera to shoot the image.

Just before you shoot, lock up your mirror if your camera has that feature as an additional way to prevent camera movement

Why am I being so picky about camera movement? Because even with the 300mm lens and extender, I’ll still have to crop the image to get the moon to dominate the frame and I want the image as clear and sharp as possible.

Now for exposure

Even though it will be dark outside, the moon, once it’s above the horizon enough so that it appears white, is in full sunlight. Therefore, sunny 16 rule – shutter speed the same as the ISO and aperture at f/16. I will probably use a reciprocal of this because I want a low ISO and a fast shutter speed. Because I will be focusing at infinity I’ll probably set ISO at 100, shutter speed at 500 and aperture at f/8. I’ll probably try shutter speed at 1000 and aperture at f/5.6 as well.

Go have some fun and capture some great images of the moon.

Photo credit:

Full Moon by Steve Russell

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  • Tiffany

    Great tips, Steve! I’m going to follow your recommendations exactly tomorrow night and give this a try!

  • Andrew

    Just came here to say that a tripod is in no way necessary when shooting a shutter speed that fast. It will just make it many times more cumbersome! Other than that, great advice on settings and lens gear. Will be shooting this moon tonight (if the clouds go away..)

  • Steve Russell

    Of course, you’re welcome to do it your way if you choose.

  • Xpactor

    just curious too why do you still need a tripod at that fast shutter speed?

  • N222624v

    It’s drizzling here in San Antonio at the moment. My moon my be wet! YOWZA!!!

  • Chicago Graphic Design

    I’ll be taking a picture of it tonight for sure. That is if we’re not experiencing a massive earthquake. Thanks for the tips! I’ll have to get my friend who has a mega lens for me to borrow.

  • N222624v

    I’m thinking of Photoshopping a thong on the moon. What are your thoughts?

  • Steve Russell

    Take your camera with a long lens and point it at the moon and notice the shake. If you’re only going to put your images on the computer or on Flickr or something like that, you probably don’t need a tripod, but I may want to print a 17×22 print. Just like looking through a telescope, the longer the lens the more just your heartbeat will move the lens relative to the moon. Think of it like this, the moon is roughly 250,000 miles away. If you move the lens just 1/16th of an inch the movement relative to the moon is huge(measured in miles). I’ll let you do the math. I’m using a shutter speed that fast because even the tiniest of vibrations will cause the moon to be less sharp.nnHowever, as I posted before, if you want to handhold the camera, go for it. Just shoot the moon.

  • Steve Russell

    I’m still laughing.

  • Anonymous

    Looks like we are clearing up. We have some big clouds floating around so we will have to pick and choose our shots here in SA

  • AndyC

    Thanks a million – just used these tips in Edinburgh, Scotland, to catch the supermoon Previously made a mess of shooting the moon so thanks for your advice.

  • Steve Russell

    Glad it was helpful. Hope you were wearing a kilt when you took the photo. :-)

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  • Ketandp

    I must say that tripod makes a big difference.nI gave it a try.. not great pictures, but its good to learn, wish I had gone thru such tips before and had a tripod, (handheld there is always a room for error).nncheck it out here..n!/album.php?fbid=10150109308042203&id=695352202&aid=276900n

  • julie faye

    Thanks for the tips; they made my photo opportunity a success. I’m a complete amateur, but my friend emailed me this article yesterday and I was able to utilize the sunny-16 rule to get some great shots. It wouldn’t have happened otherwise. Thanks!