How to take a good photograph of the moon on your phone or camera with the best settings

Guardian Australia picture editor Carly Earl explains the dos and don’ts of photographing the moon

When a full moon rises, many people will pull out their mobile phones to try to get an Instagram-worthy photograph, but unfortunately getting a great photo of the moon is really challenging.

Two reasons: it is very far away and unless you have a telephoto lens (which makes the moon appear closer than it is) it will always appear as a very small glowing dot in the frame.

Secondly, shooting at night is really difficult. Professional cameras allow you to change your ISO or your sensitivity rating which means you can shoot in low light situations without losing the quality of the image.

So can you use your smartphone camera?

The short answer is yes, but I would suggest downloading an app and shooting the moon through that instead of using the camera that is on the iPhone or Android. Some apps allow you to increase your sensitivity rating, allowing you to shoot in low light. I would suggest making sure there is another element to the image – so capturing the moon as it goes past, say, a beautiful bridge or a mountain. This allows the viewer to get perspective on the size of the moon and also creates a more interesting image.

A jet is silhouetted by the rising moon as it approaches Louisville international airport in Kentucky on Monday.
A plane is silhouetted by the rising supermoon as it approaches Louisville international airport in Kentucky on Monday, 26 April 2021. Photograph: Charlie Riedel/AP

But even with these apps you might be a little disappointed with the outcome.

In order to take an amazing image of the moon you really need a telephoto or zoom lens – the longer the better. As well as a professional camera and a tripod, also use a cable release or your two-second delay timer to release the shutter. This prevents camera shake when hitting the button. It allows you to not only increase the size of the moon in the frame but to get all the detail within it while keeping the image as sharp as possible.

The full moon rises in Buenos Aires A Supermoon rises behind the Carta Magna y Las Cuatro Regiones Argentinas monument in Buenos Aires, Argentina April 26, 2021
The supermoon rises in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on Monday, 26 April 2021 Photograph: Agustín Marcarian/Reuters

Your settings will change depending on the quality of the camera you are using. But you want your ISO to be set to 100, which keeps the image quality at its highest. Set your file size to Raw – this allows the largest file size your camera has.

Aperture is not as important when shooting the moon, so aim for around f8.

So who gets the best pics of the moon?

I love this image shot by Matt Cardy at Glastonbury Tor in 2015:

The supermoon rises behind Glastonbury Tor in England on 27 September 2015.
The supermoon rises behind Glastonbury Tor in England on 27 September 2015. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Cardy has created such an impactful frame using his composition and focal length. The size of the moon in juxtaposition with the people creates an image that looks otherworldly.


Carly Earl

The GuardianTramp

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