How can I capture the moon with my phone?
The moon is one of the most beautiful and captivating objects in the night sky, and with modern technology, it is now possible to capture its beauty with your smartphone. In this blog post, I will show you how you can take stunning images of the moon with only your phone, a tripod, and a remote shutter. With the tips and tricks I gathered as a photographer, you can take breathtaking shots of the moon and the night sky.
Understanding the Moon before taking pictures
The moon is visible at night when the sky is clear. On some evenings, it appears larger, and colors change during the seasons. The moon is approximately 238,855 miles away from Earth and has a diameter of 2,159 miles. It is the closest object to Earth and an excellent subject for practicing nighttime photography with a phone.
The moon has different phases, affecting how it appears in the sky and photographs. The phases include the full moon, new moon, waxing and waning gibbous, and waxing and waning crescent.
Every moon phase needs different settings and has its charm.
Preparing your Smartphone for capturing the moon
You need a smartphone with a good camera to capture stunning moon photos. Modern smartphones have high-quality cameras that capture detailed and sharp images in low-light conditions. Adjust the focus, exposure, and ISO to optimize your phone’s camera settings. Additionally, accessories like tripods, telephoto lenses, and filters can help you take better photos.
Which settings do I need for lunar photography?
The best settings for taking pictures of the moon with your phone depending on the moon’s phase, the amount of light in the area, and the model and make of your smartphone. But generally, you can get a long way with my 8 tips:
- Use manual focus. Most newer phones have a manual focus option in the native camera app. You can find it in the Pro, Professional, or Manual mode of the phone camera.
➽ You can read all about manual focus in this blog.
- Use a higher ISO value which makes the sensor more sensitive to light. But beware of noise. The higher the ISO, the more noise you will have in your photos. Try different settings and find the sweet spot in your settings.
➽ Read all about picking the correct ISO value in this blog
- Shoot in RAW format. It contains much more information about light, color, shadow, and depth than a JPG image. You can adjust the photographs in post-production using RAW image files.
➽ Read more about shooting RAW images in this article
- Use a longer shutters-speed to capture more light. The shutter stays open for a prolonged time. Be aware that a longer shutter speed will capture movement. This can be interesting if you want to capture light trails of cars, bikes, or flashlights.
➽ Read all about how to use the professional settings of your smartphone in this blog.
- Use a tripod or other stabilizing device to keep your smartphone still while taking images. Using a regular (professional) tripod with your phone is possible. You only need a universal smartphone mount.
➽ Learn how to use your smartphone on a tripod in this blog
- Use a remote shutter to release the shutter button of your phone without touching the device. You will prevent camera shake with this method. I have been using the remote shutter from the Moment store for a while now, and it is an indispensable piece of equipment.
➽ You can find my favorite equipment here
- Turn off the flash because it can never reach the moon! Besides, a smartphone flash is not the best part of your camera anyways. Better not use it at all.
- Use exposure stacking when you want the foreground or background of the image to be well exposed. You take multiple images from the same perspective with different exposures and merge them together in post-production.
➽ I wrote an article about how to use focus stacking for smartphone photography. You can find it here.
Finding the right time and location
The moon’s position in the sky affects how it appears in photos. For instance, a low-hanging moon will look larger and more dramatic than a high one. Every several months there is a blood moon or super moon. This is a good time to start your lunar photography adventure.
Finding the right location and time to capture the moon is also important. Look for areas with minimal light pollution and a clear sky view. A famous place to take stunning night-sky photographs is near Mount Cook Village in New Zealand. It is one of the most beautiful dark sites in the world, with hardly any light pollution. I was lucky enough to visit it twice in the last decade.
Several apps can help you find the perfect time and location to take images of the moon with your phone. Here are my top 3.
- PhotoPills is an app that includes a moon planner which lets you track the position and phase of the moon, as well as the golden and blue hours.
- SkySafari is an app with a comprehensive star chart and astronomy information. You can track the position of the moon and other celestial objects.
- Dark Sky Finder is a popular app with maps of dark sites around the world based on light pollution levels and includes information on moon phases and weather conditions.
Taking pictures of the moon with your phone
Ensuring your phone is stable and not shaking when photographing the moon is crucial. Use a tripod or other stabilizing tool to keep your phone still. Use a wireless shutter to snap the shot you like, so you won’t have to touch the actual camera.
Additionally, you want to try to frame your shot in a way that highlights the moon and adds some foreground or background interest. You can think of mountains, trees, a campsite, skyscrapers, or an industrial-looking bridge.
Adjust your camera settings as needed to get the perfect shot. You can find my 8 tips in the previous paragraphs.
Editing your moon photos
Editing can take your moon photos to the next level. Use editing tools to adjust your photos’ contrast, sharpness, and color balance. Some popular editing apps for smartphones include Lightroom, VSCO, and Snapseed. Remember, don’t over-edit your photos; you want them to look natural and not over-processed.
Additional tips and tricks
I recommend experimenting while taking photos of the moon. Try different angles, locations, and settings to find what works best. You can also try using different photo editing techniques, such as black and white or using one color to add a unique touch to your photos.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to get creative and have fun with your photos. Bring a torch to create light trails, shapes, or texts in the sky beneath the moon.
Frequently asked questions on taking images of the moon
- What camera app is best for taking pictures of the moon? Usually, the native camera app that comes with your phone is the best. Most newer phones have a manual mode which allows you to take complete control of the settings.
- What accessories do I use to take images of the moon? You will need a tripod and a remote shutter to take sharp pictures of the moon. You can use a telephoto lens from the Moment store to get the moon closer. Or you can try the telephoto lens from your smartphone. Some phones, like the ones I use, have optical zoom, which is best for bringing objects closer. Don’t use digital zoom. It’s just a crop of the original image.
- Can I use a telescope to take pictures of the moon with my phone? It is possible to use a telescope with your phone to capture the moon. You will need an adapter to fit the phone over the telescope’s eyepiece. There are entry-level telescopes available to give night-sky photography a try.
- How can I edit my moon pictures on my phone? You can use Lightroom for Mobile, Snapseed, or Photoshop to edit your photos of the moon. These apps allow you to change exposure, white balance, colors, shadows, and more. Don’t forget to turn the image quality to RAW.
- How do I focus my phone camera on the moon? Set your native camera app to professional, pro, or manual mode and manually focus your camera on the moon.
- What is the best time to take images of the moon? The best time to take photos of the moon with your phone is during the full moon. But other phases can be enjoyable as well. Just give it a try.
Final thoughts on capturing the moon with your phone
With the right tools, techniques, and practice, capturing stunning moon photos with your smartphone is easy. Use the tips and tricks in this blog post to take your moon photography to the next level. With patience and creativity, you can capture and share breathtaking lunar shots with the world.