Getting great shots of the moon is not as easy as it sounds. I recently tried to get some new shots and learned a few things along the way.

Scouting the Shot

One of the first things I needed to do was scout my location. I had to rely on internet and an app called PhotoPills. This allowed me to understand where the moon was going to be and help me find a location away from any light pollution. I knew I had to go south of the city and ended up with an amazing location.

The Right Lens

Now you need to get that great moon shot. To do so you will need a long lens. I rented a 300 mm and used it on a crop sensor. Ideally I really wanted a foreground for the moon. I didn’t really grasp how zoomed in I would be so I had to settle on just the various phases of the moon on a black background. I was kind of bummed about not getting the foreground because my location was amazing but I’m still glad I have some amazing moons in my library now.

We found this lookout in a state park called Indian Caves which is about an hour outside of Omaha, NE. I did also shoot on a wider angle lens but the sky overall was very hazy and the landscape shots didn’t turn out. I’m glad I do these type of shoots with multiple cameras for this reason alone.

The Right Settings

A great moon shot also needs to be in focus. Shooting the moon is different from shooting the milky way or stars. When doing night sky photography you need longer exposures however, with the moon you need faster shutter speeds otherwise your moon will turn out blurry. Here are the settings for the moon shot above:

  • ISO 800
  • f/5.6
  • 1/500 sec

Shooting a Sequence

I set my camera up as if I was doing a timelapse. Initially, I had the shutter going every 5 seconds. Looking back I would have been fine waiting 10 or even 20 seconds between shots. I was so zoomed into the moon that I had to adjust my camera every time the moon went out of frame. I used my trigger trap app on my iPhone to set up the timelapse.

Creating a Composite

After sifting though hundreds of moon pictures, I decided on seven moon pictures at various stages of the eclipse. I opened each selected image in photoshop. I then created a new document and set the settings that will be big enough space for your composite. I started with a 16 x 9 document but ended up having to make that larger to fit the moons. To do that, I just clicked on the crop function and adjusted my document.

Set your foreground to black:

Paint your document completely black with he paint bucket tool. Once you click on the paint bucket, all you have to do is click on your document and it will turn black. You can find the paint bucket under the gradient tool as seen here in this screenshot:

Go back to your individual moon pictures and one by one copy and paste the moon into your new document. To do that, use the magic wand tool(which I found really fast and easy) or the Lasso Tool and highlight the moon. Once highlighted, right click or use the keyboard shortcut CMD or CNTRL + C and go to your new document and paste it onto your new document. Either right click to paste or use your keyboard shorts (CMD or CNTRL + V).

When you paste each moon into the new document it will create its own layer in which you can move around to get the spacing just right. I found using a grid helped me map out how I wanted to place each moon so it appeared nicely spaced. You can find the grids under View>Show>Grid

Heres my final image with a few of the shots I took of the most recent Blood Moon.