Night photography can be difficult, luckily I’ve assembled a small collection of useful tips, tricks, and formulas to be used when taking photo’s at night.

Shutter Speed:

  • In order to get sharp photo’s the shutter speed should not exceed focal length.
    • So for a 50mm lens the shutter speed should be 1/50th or faster.
  • For Star Trails use the 500 rule: To get a clear image of stars without trails your exposure time should equal 500/focal length.
    • So for a 50mm lens the maximum shutter speed should be 10 seconds, anything longer and you will start to see trails.
  • The longer the shutter speed the longer the trails – turn on “bulb mode” and let it run.
  • Having people walk through at slow speeds will add an ethereal effect to the photo’s. You can also use a flashlight or glow sticks for light painting.


  • ND filters can help balance out a cities lights against a longer exposure to capture the night sky.
  • Focus on either the moon or the brightest star in the sky (Don’t bother with autofocus, just start at infinity and dial it in from there).
  • Once you get it set, lock your focus (Either through AF-L or manually – depending on your lens/camera).
  • Try to keep the ISO low (around 3200 – 6400 for the milky way, and 800 – 1600 for star trails) and do the brightening in post.
  • For circular star trails point the camera at the North Star or South Star (depending on your hemisphere). Point East or West for star paths (straight lines).
  • For interesting star trail photo’s make sure you have an interesting element in your foreground.
  • Manual white balance (4000k or lower)

Image Stacking:

  • Take at least a dozen images
  • Roughly 30 second shutter speed (1 minute max).
  • Set a shooting interval 1 second longer then your shutter speed
  • Shoot between 200 – 500 photos

Moon Photography:

  • Nothing slower then 1/15th second shutter speed.
  • Focus to infinity, use a telephoto lens, and higher aperture (f/16)
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