Next Monday, Earth’s solitary moon will be the closest it has been to the planet in a long, long time. The biggest and brightest supermoon of the century will be lighting up the sky on Monday night, and if you’re planning to get outside and snap some photographs of it you won’t be the only one. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Some of these tips come to us courtesy of the Canon Collective, while some come from our own experience. If you’ve got any questions, jump into the comments and we’ll try to help you out as much as possible.
Check your exposure settings. Shooting the moon — a bright object in space against a nearly pitch black background — is difficult for any camera to expose correctly. If you’re photographing in automatic mode, we’d recommend lowering the exposure compensation to make sure you capture detail on the moon’s surface and get a black, rather than grey, background in the sky.
If you’re shooting in manual settings, aim for a reasonably fast shutter speed — the moon moves faster than you’d think. Push your camera’s ISO if you have to; better to have a slightly grainy and clear shot than a blurry one. You don’t need an especially small aperture if you’re shooting near infinity focal distance, so find a happy medium between your lens’ minimum and the compromise of shutter speed and ISO.
Shoot in RAW to capture extra detail. Even if you haven’t tried it before, shooting on a proper camera — whether it’s a digital SLR or mirrorless — in RAW mode will give you a large, detailed file you can plug into Adobe Lightroom and edit to adjust exposure and contrast and to push and pull highlights and shadows and sharpness as you wish. You can also capture a JPEG at the same time to give yourself a pre-processed file to easily share around until you take the time to edit your RAW.
Shoot with a long focal length and tripod. The longest, most telephoto lens you have in your possession will be best to capture the supermoon; anything remotely wide angle won’t do the massive celestial body any justice unless you have an especially iconic building or landmark visible in the foreground. To get a sharp, low-light image with a telephoto lens, you’ll need a hefty tripod to keep the camera steady. You can always weigh a tripod down with a bag or two of sand, too.
Pick your position ahead of time. While the image above does show the moon in detail, it doesn’t have any point of reference. Some of the best moon and supermoon photos we’ve seen have had the horizon or built structures in the foreground, so get your position sorted while there’s still plenty of light. Then work out where the moon will rise — we’re fans of the Photographer’s Ephemeris app for this purpose.
There are a few different Canon Collective groups meeting up in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide — especially in coastal areas — so you can find a bunch of like-minded individuals to shoot with. Especially if you’re a bit of a newbie to low-light shooting, having some experts on hand can be genuinely useful for learning how to control your camera and snap some fancier photos.
Experiment with different settings as you go. The moon is up for a while — it reaches perigree just before 10:30PM on Monday night, and it turns full just before 1AM on Tuesday — so try shooting at different focal lengths and with different ISOs and aperture settings. Remember to lock your white balance if you’re shooting in RAW to keep results consistent for editing later.