Quick Starters Guide to Astrophotography

Astrophotography, the photographing of celestrial objects and phenemona, is becoming increasingly popular and is a discipline that requires enormous patience and dedication (often requiring the photographer to stay up all night). To get started with astrophotography and start snapping simple astrophotographs you really don’t need an elaborate set-up: a tripod and a digital camera are sufficient. Once you start delving deeper in the world of astrophotography, then telescopes and equatorial mounts come into play to be able to shoot nebulae and galaxies.

However, let’s look at what you need to get started. It’s worthwhile buying a DSLR, especially if you plan on pursuing this as a serious hobby and also want to try out different kinds of photography. Although, you can get by perfectly fine using other digital compact cameras, such as the Canon A60. Full-frame DSLRs are becoming more popular and it’s worth considering, especially affordable models such as the Canon EOS 6D or Nikon D600.

The first steps involve getting acquainted with key terminologies and experimentation practices in photography including: shutter speed, aperture, ISO, focus and white balance. It’s essential that you understand all these terms in photography and understand more about how your equipment works. One of the most important things to get acquainted with in astrophotography is how to control the amount of light in the picture. Most DSLRs have a setting called “bulb” which keeps the shutter open for as long as you press the button down. If the shutter is left open for longer, more light is let in and if we use a larger hole (aperture) it will also let more light in.

There’s a wealth of information online about ISO settings and sensitivity, so it’s recommended you spend some time swatting up and reading your camera manual and experimenting with different settings. A common problem beginners to astrophotography face is light pollution, and as astrophotography takes place usually at night often the first pictures you take will feature a red/brown sky which is far from ideal. This is usually because the auto white balance will be selected on the camera by default. In order to combat this problem, try setting the white balance to Tungsten for long exposures of the night sky.

For your first photographs we recommend setting the camera to the:

– widest aperture available

– using the longest shutter speed you can

– the highest ISO number

– white balance set to Tungsten

– focus on infinity and lock the focus

– use the self-timer or remote release to open the shutter

– experiment with different long exposures

After you’ve done snapping your first series of nighttime snaps, you’ll then boot up the computer and evaluate them. Set to 100% magnification, you’ll probably notice how noisy (grainy) the pictures are, resampling them at different view sizes will reduce the level of noise. You can also use photo editing suites, such as Photoshop to improve this. You’ll also notice the longer exposures record the most number of stars, but after a while they start to trail. Really long stars can create interesting photos, but we recommend looking through your frames at different exposures to find the frame that is the longest without unacceptable trailing.

Guest Post by Dragonfly – a corporate video production in London.

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