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Astronomy photography (astrophotography) is probably one of the most difficult types of photography that can be undertaken by the amateur photographer. It is also one of the most inspirational types of photography and is always immensely popular.
Published: March 2, 2009
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Updated: Oct 23, 2018 – Added details on technique
Luckily for us, some amateur photographers still take the time to equip and train themselves and so are able to show us remarkable work cike the astronomy photos below. But it is not an easy thing to do this type of photography. In fact a quick look at the Flickr pools available to photographers of astronomical images quickly shows that this niche requires a lot of dedication and practice – not many images turn out as well as those below!
Astrophotography – How to Shoot the Stars
While astrophotography is definitely a specialised area of photography, it isn't quite as difficult as many people seem to think. In fact, with some basic gear and a bit of knowledge, you can start this rewarding hobby without too much fuss.
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Gear for Astrophotography
While it's difficult to shoot astro with poor gear, you don't need top end gear either. Let's look at what you need:
The Best Camera for Astrophotography – While you can go to the upper end of astrophotography shooting by investing in a Nikon D850 or Sony A7RII which are considered the best cameras for this type of photography, believe it or not, almost any DSLR or Mirrorless camera is perfectly capable of getting a respectable
Hell, even an
The Best Lens for Astrophotography – In general terms, you want a fast and wide lens. What that means is that you want the aperture to be at least f/3.5 and preferably f/2.8 or, even better, f/1.8. You probably want the focal length of 20mm or wider.
While something like a 12-24mm f/2.8 is well regarded, you will get even better shots with a 14mm f/1.8 as it allows in more light.
But again, don't overthink this part. The lens you have, at its widest aperture is going to get you something so it's worth trying.
Take a look at our guide to choosing the best lens for astrophotography for a deeper look at the issues.
Other Gear for Astrophotography – Don't forget a way to
Camera Settings for Astrophotography
The simple explanation is to set your camera to its widest aperture (probably f/2.8) and ISO 1600 or ISO 3200 and then divide 500 by your focal length to get the shutter speed. For example, 500/24mm would mean a shutter speed of 21 seconds.
That is called the 500 rule. Read our 500 rule article to get a more thorough understanding of it and give out 600 rule article a read too to round out your knowledge for astrophotography camera settings.
All of the images below would have been roughly guided by those rules.
For a deeper dive into camera settings and general tips, you should also delve into our series of night sky photography articles.
- How to Photograph Star Trails
- How to Focus in Low Light
- How to Photograph the Milky Way
- How to Photograph the Moon
Apps for Astrophotography
The Best Exposure Calculator iPhone Apps for Astrophotography
The Exposure Calculator Android Apps for Astrophotography
Beautiful Examples of Astrophotography
Below we have found 13 stunning examples of astrophotography (astronomy photos) taken by backyard astronomers – of stars and galaxies, that we think are some of the most beautiful examples of what can be done with a telescope, camera and some know-how from anyone's backyard. Please feel free to link to any other examples of great backyard astronomy photography in the comments.
If you would like to achieve results like these without spending a fortune on gear, then you might like to check out Milky Way Master by the folks over at Expert Photography. Well worth a look.