How Do You Take a Picture of the Moon??

Discussion in '35mm Cameras' started by Radio913, Oct 5, 2003.

  1. Radio913

    Radio913 Guest

    What exposures would you use to take a pic of the moon?

    You can't exactly take an incident light reading, can you!

    I suppose spot-metering would be the answer, but when i used my Canon T70
    in partial meter mode, with a telescopic lens, it turned out horrible. I'm not
    sure if it was underexposed, because the moon was very bright, and the black
    sky was "corrected" by the processing machine to turn into a brown.

    I suppose that perhaps my telescopic lens wasn't big enough to get the
    moon to fill in a significant percentage of the frame to make a meaningful
    exposure measurement, but when you are in partial mode with the T70, only the
    center circle is measured.

    How do you do this? I suspect a reflected reading with my Luna-Pro be
    meaningless (no spot attachment)?

    Radio913, Oct 5, 2003
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  2. Radio913

    Charlie D Guest

    That will always happen unless you go to a good processor who will do
    "straight pints." The printing machines that do automatic exposure will
    destroy any good exposure you've made. You could shoot slides and not
    have that problem.
    The Luna-Pro should be the perfect exposure meter for Lunar photography!
    Just kidding.

    This site explains it all:
    Charlie D, Oct 5, 2003
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  3. Radio913

    NJH Guest

    Not without some expensive transportation, you can't. :)

    The good news is you don't really need to. You could take an incident light
    reading here on earth in bright sunlight, which should be close to what
    you'd get on the moon. (It's the same sunlight, and it's never cloudy on the

    Most likely the moon was way overexposed, not underexposed.

    Use a normal exposure for direct sunlight here on earth, e.g. the "f/16
    rule" (f/16 at the reciprocal of the shutter speed, or its equivalent) and
    bracket a little. Of course NO meter reading will call that exposure
    correct, unless you have a long enough lens to fill the frame with the moon,
    which is pretty unlikely. The camera's metering system will be reading all
    that blackness around the moon and trying to work that into a correct
    exposure, which would be impossible.

    Getting a decent print made will be the problem. As your experience
    indicates, the automated processing screws up the results, and it can be
    depended upon to do so. Maybe you can find an operator who can make a
    straight, not "corrected" print from the negative. Alternatively, you could
    shoot slides, which won't have that problem. You can later have prints made
    from the slides, and such prints are usually very faithful to the originals.

    NJH, Oct 5, 2003
  4. Radio913

    NJH Guest

    Oops. That should be "f/16 at the reciprocal of the ISO number," of course.
    For 200 ISO film, f/16 at something close to 1/200, or f/11 at around 1/400,
    f/8 at around 1/800, etc. etc.

    NJH, Oct 5, 2003
  5. Radio913

    Alan Browne Guest

    Exposure is the same as anyone in bright sunlight. So "sunny-16" and
    reciprocals are the speeds to shoot. eg: for ISO 100 film f/16 and
    1/125 is just fine... I'd do it at [f/8 x 1/400 or 1/500] or [f11 x
    1/200 or 1/250] at the sharper FL's of the lens.

    Tripod, release cable and if so equipped, mirror lockup.

    Even with a 600mm lens, the moon only takes up a small part of the frame.

    If you have telescope, then just figure the exposure from the sunny-16
    rule. For every stop slower the lens, increase a stop of speed (double it).

    Alan Browne, Oct 5, 2003
  6. Radio913

    Ken Cashion Guest

    Slick, the exposures are not that difficult to come by for
    either lunar or solar photography.
    When doing this photography, a good number to remember is
    Multiply .009 by the effective focal length of the lens and
    you will know the diameter of the moon or sun at the film plane.
    My 60" lens gives me a .56" dia. image which is decent size on
    a piece of 35 mm film. This is for direct projection and one of the
    neater ways of doing this. Any other lens you put between the
    objective and the film plane will give you a new effective focal
    length to work with.

    Good Luck,

    Ken Cashion, Oct 5, 2003
  7. (Radio913) wrote in

    As some have said, the "sunny-16" rule is the most often recommended.
    However, a lot of astro photographers prefer the "moony-11" rule, one stop
    brighter, because the moon doesn't always look that good as 18% grey, even
    though it might be 'accurate' for the composition of the moon rock. People
    see the moon as a bright thing in the sky, they like to see it bright in

    Also, either of these rules apply *only* for a full moon, near
    zenith, on a clear night. Half-moon, use f8 to f11, I'd suggest f8.
    Remember, only half of that spherical surface is illuminated now. Crescents
    tend to go down to f4 or lower, again, at zenith. A full harvest moon just
    risen won't even expose properly at f4. So now you're talking longer
    exposure times to accomodate whatever lens you're using, and hoping that
    the movement doesn't show up too much.

    High humidity, or the lower it is on the horizon, the more the
    exposure drops (oblique angle through more of the atmosphere).

    And yes, the processors will screw it up. Keep taking it back until
    they get it right - any idiot examining the negatives as they print it
    should be able to guess what you're after.

    While full moons look fabulous, many of the phases show much better
    detail from the oblique angle of the sun. If you're using a loooong focal
    length (1000mm or better) or a telescope, you'll probably get much more
    detailed pics at a half to gibbous moon, provided your shutter speed
    doesn't allow movement to show. Tracking motors are wonderful things.

    While you're at it, try facing *away* from the moon and shooting some
    moonlit landscapes. Can be really cool looking. Full moonlight should pull
    about 1 minute at f8 for 400 speed film, but films differ in responsiveness
    so bracket widely. Also, be sneaky and do a double exposure - one proper
    exposure for the moon high in the sky, placed precisely in an upper
    corenr of the frame, then a second, much longer exposure while aimed at a
    scenic landscape illuminated by the moon. You could never accomplish good
    lighting for both in one exposure, but done properly, the end effect should
    be great. Be careful to keep the moon in an open area of the sky for the
    second exposure, with no stars, trees, or streetlights, or you'll give it

    Have fun!

    - Al.
    Al Denelsbeck, Oct 5, 2003
  8. Radio913

    H. S. Guest

    I always wondered (perhaps I should have posted a new thread), about
    slide-being-not-tempered-with by the processing machine thing. Won't
    having the negatives scanned achieve the same objective?

    H. S., Oct 5, 2003
  9. Radio913

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    With ISO 100 film bracket around f11 (f8, f11, f16) at 1/100th second. If
    there is any chance there is haze in the upper atmosphere go down to f5.6.
    These are for full moon. With less than full add a stop or two of exposure.
    Fall and spring are about the best times to get moon shots are there is
    little haze and the moon is fairly high in the sky. It is higher and there
    is usually no haze in winter but it gets awfully cold. Summer is hazy and
    the sun is low in the sky.
    you will have to ask the lab to print the sky as black or they will make
    you a greyed out mess trying to average the exposure.
    If you use slide film add extra shots to the bracket - f9.5, and f13 to
    be sure you get a good one. Film is cheap, time is priceless.

    home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
    The Improved Links Pages are at
    New email - Contact on the Menyou page.
    Tony Spadaro, Oct 5, 2003

  10. I have to disagree with you on this one. First, when photographing the
    moon, without special equipment, all you are going to photograph is the part
    that is sun lit. You will not get a reasonable exposure on the rest of the
    moon and the fact that only part of it is exposed, does not in anyway make
    that part that is exposed any less bright.

    While there is some value in the issue about low on the horizon, the
    effect is small enough to ignore in this case. It is about equal to the
    difference in total light in the morning and at noon. Sunny 16 rule really
    covers both.
    Joseph Meehan, Oct 5, 2003
  11. What? The exposure for the moon is the same as for anything lit by the
    sun: 1/ISO @ f/16 or so. This is the 'sunny 16' rule.
    Michael Scarpitti, Oct 6, 2003
  12. Radio913

    Charlie D Guest

    True, if you later find a good processor or scan them yourself.
    The advantage of slides is that they can be projected and enjoyed if
    you're set up for it.
    Charlie D, Oct 6, 2003
  13. Radio913

    Tony Spadaro Guest

    Not in my experience. When low on the horizon the moon is in haze no matter
    what time of year. At least here in the polluted US of A. Even doing a
    summer full moon at zenith takes more exposure than in winter as the moon is
    not as high in the sky and there is again more haze. I should point out that
    in North Carolina the moon will sometimes stay yellow (an indication of
    stuff in the air) for 4 hours after it rises during the warm months.

    home of The Camera-ist's Manifesto
    The Improved Links Pages are at
    New email - Contact on the Menyou page.
    Tony Spadaro, Oct 6, 2003

  14. You just have to try it and see. In theory it sounds fine, but this
    is not a flat piece of paper that is either partially or entirely within
    the camera's field of view. It's a sphere, lit from a source of varying
    degrees away from directly perpendicular to your viewing area.

    There's two things at work here. First, when the moon is full, the
    light is hitting it more or less directly, from behind you. A good
    percentage of the surface can be reflecting back to you.

    At half moon, the light is coming directly from the side, and
    'ricocheting' towards you - the area that gives a 'direct' reflection is a
    crescent, a little more than halfway between the terminator and the bright
    outer edge. It's a significantly smaller area to reflect, and will be

    Moreover, since the surface has quite a bit of texture, the indirect
    light is throwing a lot of shadows, further reducing the area reflecting
    light towards Earth. The listed sources below suggest an even greater
    variance than I originally posted.

    The issue of height above the horizon depends very heavily on
    humidity in the air. The difference can be huge. Shoot a harvest moon at
    sunny-16 and see if you get anything usable. In fact, shoot the clearest
    moon you can find (any phase from full towards waning, so the sky is
    properly dark) one hour after it rises, then six hours, at the same
    exposure and see the difference.

    Oh yeah, I should also list a great source for times and phases and
    such, which is

    - Al.
    Al Denelsbeck, Oct 6, 2003
  15. What what you suggest is true, your conclusion about exposure is not.
    The moon has light and shadow. This is true at any phase of the moon. The
    light is full sun, always, the shadow is much deaper shadow than on earth
    and is almost uniform becaue unlike earth the moon does not had a sky to
    provide shadow ilumination, only star light and sometimes earth light along
    with some light reflected from other moon features. The end result is very
    little light in the shadows, too little to record with common photographic
    There are two item in play here. Both true. First early in the evening
    you are getting not just the moon, but also the twilight glow. Difficult to
    expose, (bracking works well) but worth the effort in my view. Second, as
    you suggest is an increased filtering effect from the atmosphere which I
    commented on "While there is some value in the issue about low on the
    horizon, the
    effect is small enough to ignore in this case. It is about equal to the
    difference in total light in the morning and at noon." I should have noted
    that it is about equal to the difference ON EARTH .." There are times that
    it is greater than normal, but considering the subject, those differences
    are not common, but do happen.
    Joseph Meehan, Oct 6, 2003
  16. Radio913

    McLeod Guest

    Not true. All minilabs have automatic exposure. To get good prints from a
    scene with anything outside of a normal density, either light or dark, you
    need to go to a place that will correct your images when they don't look
    right to the operator. There is no such thing as "straight printing". If
    you get a good print that is mostly black or white the operator has stepped
    in and made adjustments to the print. Places with a high volume of printing
    may not make any corrections but if you take your film and prints back to
    them and explain what it should look like they should reprint them for free.

    That will always happen unless you go to a good processor who will do
    "straight pints." The printing machines that do automatic exposure will
    destroy any good exposure you've made. You could shoot slides and not
    have that problem.
    McLeod, Oct 6, 2003
  17. I shot some pics of the moon last night with 400 speed color neg film... It
    was a crystal clear night but I still bracketed my shots using 1/400 at both
    f16 and f11... Ya never know for sure...
    Dennis O'Connor, Oct 6, 2003
  18. It gets cloudy on earth though, and a thin veil of cloud between you and the
    moon can take away a surprising amount of light.
    So unless it's an absolutely clear night, bracketing a stop towards
    overexposure is recommended.
    Q.G. de Bakker, Oct 6, 2003
  19. Just go out and makes some moon pictures witha 12 exposure roll of film,
    first with the sunny16 rule, and then bracketed exposures and run em down
    to the one hour photo shop.. Then folks will know for themselves... That
    they will retain a lot longer than what we say here...
    Denny - Televue Genesis
    Dennis O'Connor, Oct 6, 2003
  20. Radio913

    Bandicoot Guest

    First you make a speech that includes the words "We do these things not
    because they are easy, but because they are hard"...

    Bandicoot, Oct 6, 2003
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