Shooting Stars – How to Photograph the Moon and Stars With Your DSLR by Phil Hart is a complete guide to taking amazing photos of the night sky. If you own and understand the basic controls of a DSLR and a tripod, then with this book you can get started on capturing compelling images and/or videos of the night sky.
The Four Parts of the Book
1. The Sky at Night
This opening section of the book provides an introductory education on basic astronomy concepts as well as detailed information on the night sky through the seasons in both hemispheres, the moon, light pollution and the weather.
Peppered throughout each subject are many gorgeous photos, diagrams, charts and links to highly credible sources of more information and free open source software.
In the section on light pollution, which is a more pervasive problem than one might think, there is a map of the entire world showing exactly where the hot spots for light pollution are located. You can also click on the links to view separate regions of the world in more detail.
2. Night Sky Photography
This is the part of the book where you learn how to use your camera, lenses and other gear to take amazing night photos. While it is true that you really only need your DSLR camera and tripod, there is other equipment that can enhance your experience as well as what you can do with your camera.
Night photography is more challenging due to the much lower light levels, but armed with the proper knowledge and some basic gear you can master it. While there is a massive amount of detail in this section, it is laid out in such an easy to comprehend way, that anybody motivated to learn will be able to digest it and put it to good use.
Like the first section, lots of beautiful photos and helpful graphics are used to demonstrate the material being covered. For example, in the part that goes over shutter speed, actual photos are used to show the radically different results of using the same shutter speed with the camera pointed different directions in the sky. The stars can move a lot during a 60 second exposure!
Other important aspects of using your camera for night sky photography include lenses, aperture, focusing methods, ISO, noise reduction and other camera settings. Also, other gear and even clothing are covered.
You can also learn how to shoot landscapes in twilight, stunning HDR, moonlit landscapes, panoramas and much more.
3. Image Processing
Like any other form of photography, night photos will require post-processing to fully bring out their beauty. Sometimes you will want to use post-processing as a way to bring the image closer to what your eyes actually saw. However, there is room for artistic interpretation as well. Both of these goals are recognized in this book.
First explained is the histogram, which is an important tool in any type of photography. Color and saturation, white balance and other adjustments are explained as well.
To make things really simple, the book lays out four basic steps to enhancing your photos, all of which can be done in a variety of image editing software. In fact, there are detailed tutorials that are specific to different software such as Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture and ACDSee Pro. Most photographers have at least one of these programs at the ready.
For those interested in timelapse video, there is a short tutorial on post-processing as well.
4. Wonders of the Night Sky
This section is inspiring and shows you many specific celestial events, plus where and when, that you can photograph. Again, bare bones all you really need to take these photos is a camera and a tripod so you can get started immediately if you want. This section is chock full of beautiful night sky photographs from all over the world.
Finally, a helpful field guide that you can print out and carry with you as well as links to further resources are included.
Personally, I have been interested in night photography since day one and have felt intimidated by some aspects of it. During the process of reading this book with the intention to review it, I became inspired to get started on shooting at night myself! Like I thought, there were indeed gaps in my knowledge that would have been frustrating hurdles to get over. Now, I feel confident that with a bit of practice I will be able to capture night sky images I will feel proud of.
Being a visual person, and all photographers are, having the option to do a large part of my learning visually instead of trying to digest everything via text was refreshing. After taking my time and reading the material from start to finish, it was a piece of cake to quickly scan for items of interest that I wanted to look over again.
I would definitely recommend this book first and foremost to any photographer interested in night sky photography.
You can get a copy of Phil Hart’s book at his website.