How to Shoot The Super Moon Tonight!

Full moon at night. Grass in the foreground. Perfect for background, copy-space. Elements of this image furnished by NASA

Howdy everybody, and greetings from Denver (I’m here for my seminar today). Caught a late flight after the Bucs vs. Bears game last night — look forward to meeting everybody here today. 🙂

OK, tonight’s the big Super Moon shoot (well, it started last night, and wraps up tonight), so since everybody here is a photographer, I thought I’d toss in a quick tutorial on how to get a good shot of this celestial phenomenon, and the settings I’d use to get there.

STEP ONE: Use a tripod. Technically, you could do this hand-held because of the shutter speed we’re going to use, but you want it to be really sharp, so I highly recommend a tripod.

STEP TWO: Use the longest lens you have. If you have a tele-extender, slap that on, too! Even those it’s probably the closest to earth it’s ever going to be during our lifetime, it’s still a ways away, so if you’ve got a 300mm, a 400mm, etc., now’s the time to pull that bad boy out.

STEP THREE: Shoot in Manual Mode; set your ISO to 100 (or whatever your cleanest, native ISO is). Then set your f/stop to f/11, and set your shutter speed to 1/250 of a second (this isn’t a long exposure situation — the moon is moving, and it’s bright, so you need a nice quick shutter speed, even though it seems like you wouldn’t).

STEP FOUR: Because what you’re trying to do here is show the sheer size of the super moon, I would put something in the shot to show a sense of scale (like the grass you see in the shot above). Shoot it with a cityscape in the background — a building — a tower, a hill, a large oak tree;  a coyote howling at the moon;  ET flying in front of it, etc. Otherwise, it will just be a moon photo like any other moon photo, so giving it a sense of scale makes all the difference with a super moon.

STEP FIVE: The final step is focusing. You can use the Auto Focus on your camera (especially tonight), but if you have a lens that has a focus scale, you can set your lens to focus to infinity by doing this: switch your lens to Manual focus; turn your focus barrel all the way until you see the infinity symbol in the little window on your lens, then once you reach infinity, turn back to the line just before the Infinity symbol. If your lens doesn’t have this feature, again, you can use Auto Focus, or even just manually focus on the moon — it’s pretty big and bright.

OK, that’s the ticket — wishing you a super, super moon shot!



P.S. Over on my blog today I revealed the winner (and some honorable mentions) of my Worldwide Photo Walk’s new Video Category competition. Here’s the link if you’ve got a sec.