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Introduction to Astrophotography: Capturing the Beauty of the Night Sky

Introduction to Astrophotography: Capturing the Beauty of the Night Sky

Astrophotography is the art of capturing stunning images of the night sky, including stars, planets, galaxies, and other celestial objects. The practice of astrophotography has been around since the invention of photography itself, and it has continued to evolve with the advancements in camera technology. With the right equipment and techniques, you can take breathtaking photos of the universe that are both beautiful and scientifically valuable. 

In this blog post, we will explore the world of astrophotography, including what it is, why it's important, and how you can get started in this exciting and rewarding hobby. Whether you're an experienced photographer or just starting out, there's something for everyone in the world of astrophotography.

What is Astrophotography

To put it simply, astrophotography is taking photos of celestial events, astronomical objects like the Earth’s Moon, or other areas of the night sky. Because of the technology used, astrophotography can even extend beyond the boundaries of the human eye to capture objects like other galaxy clusters, nebulae, and other star systems. 

Interestingly, the history and development of astrophotography has historically been the realm of mid-19th-century hobbyists; amateur astronomers, independent scientists, and of early photographers themselves. 

Technological advancements that allowed the long-exposure times to accurately capture any astronomical objects were needed, and this loose group found creative ways to circumvent the technological limitations of the time. 

From telescopes that were rigid enough not to fall when aimed at a specific point, the telescope’s ability to stay in focus during the exposure time, and being able to follow the object at a constant rate as the astronomical object moves in the night sky. While this helped assist in capturing images of the night sky, photographers and scientists alike were still unfortunately limited by the image processing and-developing techniques of the time.

Types of Astrophotography

Because of the variety of cosmological phenomena, there are just as many different types of astrophotography. While the most common are often of the nighttime and capturing hi-definition images of the moon’s phases, there is so much more to astrophotography than just those two styles.

Deep Space

Deep space photography is perhaps the most technically and technologically advanced (and challenging) form of astrophotography. Requiring high-powered telescopes to plunge deep into the cosmos, deep space photography captures images light-years beyond Earth.

Moon Phases

Given the ubiquity of the moon in the night sky, it's natural that astrophotographers would capture this image, especially as it waxes and wanes. In fact, some of the first attempts at astrophotography were photos of the moon. 

The inventor of the daguerreotype (an early photography method), Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, attempted to capture an image of the moon in 1839 but sadly yielded only a blurry image.

It was only a year later till John William Draper, a New York professor was able to capture an image of the moon after taking a 20-minute-long daguerreotype image on March 23rd, 1840.

In addition to the moon’s dynamic phases, the Moon’s cratered surface also makes for wonderful and stunning images, and this is especially true when used in conjunction with the moon’s phases to creative evening more visually arresting photos.


Perhaps a subset of nigh-time astrophotography more than a separate discipline, constellation astrophotography combines the techniques of night-time photography with aspects of deep space photography to capture constellations hanging in the celestial sphere.

Meteor Shower

Similar in difficulty to capturing Milky Way astrophotography, meteor shower astrophotography requires not only the right equipment and camera lens, but being at the right place at the right time as well. However in spite of that, if you are able to capture a meteor shower, the end results are absolutely breathtaking.

Night Time

The second most obvious choice of subject matter when it comes to astrophotography is that of the night sky, within its dazzling array of stars, constellations, and brief glimpses of other planets within our solar system. 

Just like the moon, our nighttime sky holds enough wonders and interesting phenomena that it makes an excellent first choice for capturing for the budding astrophotographer.

Milky Way

While we are indeed part of the Milky Way galaxy, we can capture bits and pieces of the larger galaxy from our position here on Earth. This subject matter is a bit more difficult to capture when compared to say the night sky or moon. Capturing the Milky Way in its awe-inspiring glory requires being in an area with low light pollution like the desert, making it a bit harder for the simple hobbyist to capture our galaxy.

Tools Needed

Like any hobby, photography, but especially astrophotography needs some specialized equipment to be able to properly capture its subject matter. From tripods to cameras, telescopes, and more, we will break down each with helpful tips and suggestions to help you create and lay a great foundation for capturing the night sky and beyond.


While it's possible to take a night-time photo of bright star in the sky using a cell phone, to truly capture the breadth and depth of the stars, a DSLR camera such as the Canon 5D or 6D makes for great choice. Both have great low light capabilities and large sensor areas to capture the light from the sky accurately during long exposure time. While we suggest the Canon 5D and 6D, if those cameras are a bit out of your price range, simply opting for any DSLR camera with good low-light functions will suffice, just be sure to shop around and price compare!


A must-need with getting into the astrophotography hobby in a tripod. Given the long exposure times needed to accurately capture the nighttime sky, it's impossible for the human body to maintain that length of bodily stillness for that length of time; that’s where the tripod comes in! 

Useful in a long of situations, the tripod cuts down on shaking when the camera’s aperture is open when capturing the night time sky, allowing you to appreciate the night sky and the cosmos in all its glory rather than fiddling with various settings. 

Star Tracker Mount

Because of the dynamic nature of the night sky, investing in a star tracking mount system is a wise investment, especially if you aim to capture images of the Milky Way galaxy or other deep space phenomena. Having a star tracking mount will negate the light trails and will allow you to capture a fully developed image within the light trails common in static long-exposure photos. 


While there are many variations and gradations of telescopes, the type of telescope you should look for when taking astrophotography depends on the types of subjects you plan on capturing. 

If your aim is to take high-resolution photos of the Moon’s surface and beyond into deep space, then a telescope is an absolute must, however, given their price tag, if you plan on simply taking photos of the night sky and perhaps the Milky Way, a telescope isn’t needed.

That aside, the features you should look for when choosing a telescope for astrophotography are its WiFi connectivity, does it have the ability to automatically align, its focal length (we suggest between 16-24mm), and its aperture are also things to consider. 

Photo Editing Software

Lastly, because of the equipment needed, the last piece of “gear” you will need is some photo editing software. Whether it's Photoshop, GIMP, or something else entirely, you’ll 100% need a software program that you can export your photos to for post-processing to edit them into stunning images.

Beginner Tips

Unlike other forms of photography, astrophotography is a more specialized form of photography that while borrows techniques and equipment from “regular” photographers, its differs is many significant ways. 

Because of the subject matter involved, more specialized equipment as noted in the proceeding section is needed, but other factors such as location, timing, technical matters, and other factors like the types of post-production involved differ greatly from other types of photography.

By following some of these (and pardon the pun) north stars, you’ll be able to quickly and easily get started snapping breathtaking photos of the next meteor shower or full moon in no time at all!


A big part of learning about the art of photography, no matter the type or style, is learning how to properly use the equipment. This process is all about trial and error and learning through our mistakes. 

When taking astrophotography (or any other subject matter), it's ideal to set your camera settings to manual rather than automatic so that you can manually adjust the settings to suit the visual conditions as they appear in front of you rather than the camera’s internal sensors. 

In particular, because of the relative smallness of the stars in the night sky, manual focusing and adjusting the settings as you set up your camera and shots will go much further than relying on the camera itself to do the (subpar) work for you. 


In case you don’t know, the aperture controls the amount of light “allowed” to hit the camera’s sensor. Think of a camera’s aperture like an eye’s iris. So the lower the aperture number is (traditionally represented as f-number), the more open or dilated the iris (aperture) is, which in turn allows more light in.

Because of the long exposure times used in astrophotography, having a camera with a wide aperture is needed. Setting the aperture between f28.8 to f4 on most DSLR cameras should allow what little light there is during the night to be captured.

Remote Shutter Release

Without overstating its case, astrophotography and long-form exposure photography really require remote shutter releases if you want to take these types of photos properly. The smallest, most infinitesimal amount of movement can irreparably alter a photo of this type. Put simply movement is the enemy.

By keeping your camera steady on a tripod while snapping the photo with a remote shutter release can keep the photos pristine without movement trails that your finger or some other element may have caused like the wind.

Image File

When shooting with professional-level gear, you always want to shoot your photos in RAW or another similar lossless file format. Doing so allows the most amount of freedom and wriggle room during post-production to alter the photo in a meaningful way that elevates picture quality of the photo rather than “harming” it.


There are many environmental factors that play a significant role in astrophotography; such as temperatures, cloud cover, light pollution, and the like.

Ideally, when taking these types of photos, you should have little cloud cover (a clear sky), stable temperatures, or weather that allows you to take long-exposure photos comfortably, and being away from major cities or towns that cause light pollution will “drown” out the night sky.

Another factor that may play a part is that of pollutants, which act in a similar fashion to light pollution, dimming the natural beauty of the night sky. Put simply avoid areas of high light pollution and real pollution when taking astrophotographs. 

Potential Spots to Photograph

Because of the aforementioned conditions, oftentimes the best places to capture astrophotos is in national parks, particularly those out west where they are away from major cities, such as Joshua Tree National Park, the Grand Canyon National Park, Death Valley National Park, Cherry Springs State Park, and many, many more.


As with any artistic endeavor, there are certain principles that apply and work in unison to create an interesting piece of art; whether it is on canvas or photography. 

For photography, composition plays such an important and integral part in photography that simply just snapping a photo will yield a bland, uninteresting photo. So be mindful of composition and how the night’s sky unfolds and how to a suitable lens to best capture a visually striking image.

Star-Gazing Apps

Because of the subject matter we are capturing, it helps to know where in the night sky we are photographing and what exactly is it called. Because not everyone is an amateur astronomer, the second best thing you can do is download a star-gazing app on your smartphone.

These apps can help tell you the location of galaxies, constellations, planets, and more by using the GPS on your smartphone. This tool is nearly invaluable if you’re going to take astrophotography seriously or if you plan on capturing specific celestial objects like Venus, Mars, or Jupiter! 

Smartphone Astrophotography

While you may think that astrophotography can only be taken with high-end equipment, but advancements in smartphone camera technology now make it possible for anyone to take astrophotography using their phone. 

Many of the beginner tips we suggest still apply, from using a sturdy tripod too, taking photos in dark locations away from artificial light, manually adjusting your smartphone camera’s settings, and using a star-gazing app to identify celestial objects and calculate exposure times.


In conclusion, astrophotography is an exciting and rewarding hobby that allows you to capture stunning images of the night sky. Whether you're an amateur or a professional photographer, there's always something new to learn and discover when taking pictures of celestial objects.

While astrophotography may seem intimidating, it's becoming more accessible with the advancements in digital cameras and technology and the availability of resources online. From smartphone cameras to high-end telescopes and cameras, there's a range of equipment that can help you get started with astrophotography.

To become proficient at astrophotography, you need to be patient and willing to learn. It takes practice to master the different techniques and settings required to take good astrophotography shots. You also need to be willing to invest in the right equipment, such as a tripod and camera lenses, to achieve the best results.

Overall, astrophotography is a rewarding hobby that offers a unique perspective on the beauty of the universe. It allows you to capture breathtaking images of celestial objects that would otherwise be invisible to the naked eye. So, grab your camera, head out into the night sky, and start capturing the wonders of the universe through the lens of your camera.