Bite Size Tips: Milky Way Photography With 3 Stunning Photos Of The Night Sky


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:

Image from Pixabay by Skeeze

Image from Pixabay by Skeeze

Image from Pixabay by Derwiki

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!

About Author

Dahlia is a stock photographer and full time educator at Light Stalking. You can find her on Gurushots and see some of her more popular articles at The American Society of Media Photographers. Get to know her better here.

Top stuff, Dahlia – I went on a shoot at the Observatory up in the hills, above the city, about 6 months ago to take photos of the night sky – as I had never done astrophotography before, I tried to bone up on it and supplement my meagre knowledge, and when we assembled at the Observatory to start the shoot, I was astonished to find that hardly any of the other people in the group had ever heard of the 500 Rule.

I know these postings are intended only as “bite size tips” – but you’ve provided a solid foundation for anyone wanting to explore this phase of photography, to get started and bag some good shots. And later, if they are stll interested, they can build from there.

Hi Jean, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. Agree with you on having these tips handy to get started 🙂

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