Shoot the Moon
Taking pictures of the moon can be a tricky affair. However, with a little practice it can be a success. Modern digital cameras that have a live preview make shooting the moon easier and safer than ever. The moon is bright, surprisingly bright. Next to the sun nothing in the sky is brighter and as such it may be dangerous to look through the eyepiece of your camera for long periods of time when shooting the moon. This is why I recommend using the live view function instead of the eyepiece when shooting the moon. The other added benefit of the live view feature is that on many cameras the live view will also preview exposure changes made to the photograph prior to shooting the picture.
Most first attempts at shooting the moon look something like this:
ISO 1600 / f5.6 / Shutter Speed 1/4 / 300mm
Notice the blown out moon and the ghosting of the moon. This is typical of what will happen if the camera is set to full auto. This is both an exposure and focusing problem. The image is overexposed and the focus is on the landscape in the near foreground. The focusing problem causes the moons image to reflect off the optics in the camera and provides the ghosted image. Don’t worry, this is easy to correct. Here is what you need and how to shoot the moon. You most likely will not even need to take the camera out of Auto mode.
Tripod (Optional but highly recommended).
Zoom Lens or Prime lens of 200mm or greater.
DSLR or Midrange Point and shoot camera with exposure adjustment setting.
Step by Step instructions:
Access your camera’s exposure controls in the Auto or Program mode settings (this will vary from camera to camera and from one manufacturer to another. Some cameras allow no modification of auto settings; in this case, a program mode is usually available).
Once inside the Exposure controls, you should find a section called Metering Modes. Most cameras have three metering modes, Multi-Segment (this is the default mode, it looks at the entire frame to determine the best overall exposure for a particular image), Center Weighted (this mode looks at the middle third of the image to determine the overall exposure) and Spot Mode (this mode will expose only for the area directly in line with one spot, often the very center, of the frame of the camera.
Select Spot Mode. This will cause the camera to expose only for the moon and ignore the background information such as the dark sky behind the moon.
Mount the camera on the tripod, use the live view functions and aim the camera at the moon.
Center the moon in the middle of your view finder, zoom in as close as possible and press the shutter release. If you experience a shaky picture, even with a tripod, you might consider using an external shutter control button or using the self timer on your camera.
Here is an example of the moon shot using exactly this method:
ISO 200 / f5.6 / Shutter Speed 1/160 / 300mm
Good luck and enjoy Shooting the Moon.