Tonight’s full moon: How to take a good photograph on your phone or camera

The moon is surprisingly hard to photograph: Here are some dos and don’ts from a professional

People watch as the ‘super flower blood moon’ rises over Bondi Beach in Sydney on May 26th, 2021. Photograph: Steven Saphore/Anadolu Agency via Getty

People watch as the ‘super flower blood moon’ rises over Bondi Beach in Sydney on May 26th, 2021. Photograph: Steven Saphore/Anadolu Agency via Getty

 

When a full moon rises, many people will pull out their mobile phones to try to get an Instagram-worthy photograph, but unfortunately the moon is really challenging to get a great picture of.

There are two reasons for this. First, it is very far away, so unless you have a telephoto lens (which makes the moon appear closer than it is) it will always appear as a very small glowing dot in the frame.

Second, shooting at night is really difficult. Professional cameras allow you to change your ISO, or your sensitivity rating, which means you can shoot in low-light situations without losing the quality of the image.

With a full moon expected tonight, can you use your smartphone camera?

The short answer is yes, but I would suggest downloading an app and shooting the moon through that instead of using the camera that is on your iPhone or Android device. Some apps allow you to increase its camera’s sensitivity rating, allowing you to shoot in low light.

I would also suggest making sure there is another element to the image – so capturing the moon as it goes past, say, a beautiful bridge or a mountain. This allows the viewer to get perspective on the size of the moon and also creates a more interesting image.

A plane is silhouetted by a supermoon. Photograph: Getty
A plane is silhouetted by a supermoon. Photograph: Getty

But even with these apps you might be a little disappointed with the outcome.

In order to take an amazing image of the moon you really need a telephoto or zoom lens – the longer the better. As well as a professional camera and a tripod, also use a cable release or your two-second delay timer to release the shutter. This prevents camera shake when hitting the button. It allows you not only to increase the size of the moon in the frame but also to get all the detail within it while keeping the image as sharp as possible.

The super pink moon rises above the Statue of Liberty in New York City on April 26th, 2021 as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. Photograph: Gary Hershorn/Getty
The super pink moon rises above the Statue of Liberty in New York City on April 26th, 2021 as seen from Jersey City, New Jersey. Photograph: Gary Hershorn/Getty

Your settings will change depending on the quality of the camera you are using. But you want your ISO to be set to 100, which keeps the image quality at its highest. Set your file size to Raw – this allows the largest file size your camera has.

Aperture is not as important when shooting the moon, so aim for about f8.

So who gets the best pics of the moon?

I love this image shot by Matt Cardy at Glastonbury Tor in 2015:

The supermoon rises behind Glastonbury Tor in England on September 27th, 2015. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
The supermoon rises behind Glastonbury Tor in England on September 27th, 2015. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Cardy has created such an impactful frame using his composition and focal length. The size of the moon in juxtaposition with the people creates an image that looks otherworldly. – Guardian

Carly Earl is picture editor of Guardian Australia

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