We have all seen those amazing shots of the night sky that show the milky way – the type that make you stop and look and maybe say “wow.” You know – ones like these:
As photographers, these images are in the “easy to shoot, difficult to master category.”
The basics are these.
- Get a wide angle lens, the faster the better. Put your camera on a tripod. Point it at Sagittarius (use an iPhone app to find this constellation if you need to).
- Start at these settings: ISO 3200 and the widest aperture possible (2.8 or wider if possible).
- Use the 500 Rule to figure out your shutter speed. i.e. 500 / focal length (35mm equivalent). So if you're using a 20mm lens, your shutter speed will be 500/20 so about 25 seconds.
- When you open up the raw file in post production, you are going to want to mess around with clarity, contrast, brightness and noise reduction.
Yup, that's about the basics.
If you go outside tonight with your average DSLR and a wide angle lens and follow the above, you'll get something – maybe not the shot of your life – but something. You can make your own judgements about exposure based off your test shots.
Now, this is one of those rabbit holes you can go a LONG way down. Setups, compositions, gear, post production – there is a LOT to be learned if you are motivated enough.
If it's for you, take a look at Josh Dunlop's Milky Way Mastery – it's the pick of the bunch right now.
If not, just get out and shoot and see what you can come up with. Because practice is how you get better!