HOW TO TUESDAY #8 – how to get better photographs of the full moon on Christmas night

Did you know there will be a full moon on Christmas night? If you are like me, you’ll want to make sure you get some practice in for when Santa crosses in front of the moon so you don’t miss your chance to get a once in a lifetime shot. The choice is wether to silhouette Santa or exposure for him and his sleigh of mighty reindeer. What is a photographer to do? Why don’t we start with the exposure on the full moon image above and go from there…

Conditions: August 10th, 8:20 pm Clear Sky, Super Moon

Settings Used: Canon 5D Mark3, 70-200 2.8L, 2x Extender, ISO 1000, 1/1000 @ 5.6 @ 400mm

Editing: Adobe Camera Raw 

There you have it. I have bared all for you to see, the gig is up, my secret is out. Why would I show you all my settings? For one: because the more information we share the better we all become – we raise the bar of our own community and everyone wins.

Getting back to Santa…..so if there is no light on Santa, then we should have a silhouette, right? I hate to tell you but, no. Factors such as: Atmospheric Conditions, Cloud Cover, and Time of Moon rise (and “Santa Sleigh Speed”) can contribute to variations in exposure, composition, and our final image. The best way to approach this shot is to come at it like we do any tricky night situation:

1. Take our UV filters OFF – doing this will cancel any specular highlights from creating highlight spots in your image. 

2. Stabilize! Turn VR/IR On, Use a Tripod, or lean up against something.

3. Set the lowest ISO possible that gives you the best shutter speed. Remember the Earth is moving so our exposures can’t bee too long.

4. If you are handholding, Double your focal length to get your shutter speed…ex: If you are shooting at 400mm = then your shutter speed should be at least 1/800 – get it?

5. Set your AF to Center Point, Spot Meter off of the Moon and “Find the “O”...take a test shot, then over expose or under expose depending on how you want your shot to look. I would suggest bracketing 1 stop Over/Under “0” (so that’s 3 total shots) since the moon will be reflecting so much light we may want to composite in Photoshop later.

See that was easy! Be sure to post your photos and share them with me! Find me on Facebook or use the hashtag #zsworkshops for whatever you do..i’ll find it!


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Beginner Digital