Ever walk outside on a clear night and just happen to look up and notice how beautiful the stars look? And you’re wishing you could snap a picture of it to keep it in your memory forever?
Well, you can!
With today’s digital camera technology, it is now easier than ever to capture a beautiful star-lit night sky. Taking pictures at night will require a sturdy tripod, longer exposure times and higher ISO settings, which could result in photos looking “noisy.” But most newer DSLR’s handle noise much better than even just a few years ago, so capturing a dark sky filled with twinkling stars can produce higher quality results. Plus, there are many inexpensive tools to help reduce noise further such as Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. I highly recommend shooting in RAW to give you more control in post-processing.
Now let’s begin. Grab your DSLR camera and attach it to a sturdy tripod. Use a wide angle lens and turn off automatic focusing. Most lenses have a window on the top of the lens barrel showing distance numbers. Just look for the infinity sign and manually focus your lens until it lines up with that symbol.
Switch your camera to manual mode and choose an F-stop (aperture) of F4. Set the shutter speed to “bulb”. Set the ISO to 1600. Now you are ready to take a longer exposure manually.
Use a wireless remote or a corded remote control release to trigger the shutter. Look through the lens and compose as best you can. Trigger the shutter and keep it open for 15-20 seconds. (To ensure better stability, you can also choose to delay the shutter by using a 2 second delay found in your self-timer menu).
Check your monitor for results and adjust the time as needed. A little trial and error will apply. A longer shutter will produce a brighter sky, shorter shutter - darker. If you want to actually see some star-streaking, you can increase the exposure time. If the photos are looking too bright, adjust the F-stop to F5.6 or F8. Try a 2 minute exposure at F11 and see what happens. It’s up to you. Maybe a plane will be flying by or even a shooting star and you can capture it during a long exposure.
I have not talked about location but obviously, the darker with the least light pollution will produce the best results. However, these same principles can apply to other nightscapes as well. Try this technique with city skylines or busy urban nightlife or carnivals like the South Florida Fair. Have fun and experiment.
BECOME A SHOOTING STAR when you share your amazing results with friends and family.
(The photo shown here were taken in Taos, New Mexico on Jan. 6, 2014. It was 0 degrees, brrr. I was lucky to have such a clear, starry night. Gear used: Nikon D7000 with a Tokina 11-16mm wide angle lens. 18 second exposure at F4, 1600 ISO.)