10 simple tips for budding astro imagers

Follow these essential steps and start astro imaging today

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Credit: Will Gater

The Orion Nebula is just one of the objects you can capture with a simple DSLR


by Vincent Whiteman

To coincide with the launch of our Complete Guide to Astrophotography on 23 August, we are giving you 10 essential tips on how to use a DSLR camera to capture the night sky. With these fundamental skills in the bag, you’ll be well on your way to imaging the wonders of the Universe.

 

  1. Manual: Switch your camera to M mode. This will give you full control over your camera’s settings.
  1. Location: Find a dark spot open to the stars and away from streetlights. Use a wall to shield your camera from them if required. 
  1. Exposure: A slow shutter speed of around 20 seconds allows plenty of starlight to be collected. For speeds slower than 30 seconds switch to the B (Bulb) function and use a cable release.
  1. Sensitivity: The ISO controls the sensitivity. Higher ISOs are more sensitive, revealing more stars but at the expense of picture quality – giving you a more grainy image.
  1. Noise: Switch on noise reduction, which can be found in the menu, to improve image quality.
  1. Lenses: Use a wide-angle lens to start with and you’ll capture a surprising array of objects like planets, star clusters, dust lanes and nebulae.
  1. Aperture (f-number): The iris controls the amount of light that passes through the camera lens. The lower the f-number, the more dilated the iris is, meaning more light enters your camera. Aim for f/4 or lower if your lens allows it. 
  1. Focus: Because it’s dark focusing is often a case of trial and error. Switch to manual focus and set it to infinity. Take a test shot and slowly adjust the focus ring till you’re image is sharp.
  1. Bad vibrations: The slightest movement has a significant effect on a photo. A steady tripod and cable release help alleviate movement caused by wind or your finger clicking off a shot.
  1. Composure: Use the rule of thirds to compose your image. Add something in the foreground to provide impact and perspective.

 

It won't be long before you'll want to show off your late night efforts to the world and you can do just that by posting your astro images in our online Hotshots gallery.  

Find out how to capture even more impressive and detailed images with our Complete Guide to Astrophotography.

 

 


 

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