Starry Sky Night Photography Tutorial, enjoy!

Starry Sky Night Photography. These are some examples of the Starry Sky Night Photography provided by our School of Photography photographers / tutors Ion Paciu and Tatiana Zigar

Our tutors recently took some starry night sky images and we have been asked by some of our students how did they do it.
Well, we thought we might give you some tips and then you can try do it on your own.

Anyway, here’s how they did it:

1. What you need:

You need an SLR camera (Digital or analog) with a lens with a large aperture (at least f/3.5 but ideally f/2/8) and some good performance ISO. It might be possible to shoot this on a compact camera too as some have f/2.8 aperture but the ISO performance is a bit less than the DSLR sensors.

You will also need a remote control or a shutter release cable in order to minimise the camera shake when exposing; but you can use the timer of the camera if you don’t have one. The newest cameras have the 2 second timers so you won’t need to wait for 10 seconds to trigger the shutter.

Most of the photographers will recommend a tripod as a must. Well, it’s obviously a very helpful tool, a must in some cases but this can be debatable occasionally; if the camera is set in a place on a solid surface with the lens pointing to the sky you can actually take the image without one (see below an image of the northern lights taken by our tutor Ion Paciu in Iceland.) The camera was positioned on the tarmac on the road with a pack of cigarettes positioned under the lens, it actually worked really well! Ssh, please don’t tell anyone this tip!

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2. Location

The darker the place, the better the experience AND photograph. If you wish to take starry pictures in the garden behind your house or from your balcony it can be possible, however, for good, effective, better results you will need a place far away from city lights. See below a starry sky night again taken by Ion Paciu in central London from a 4th floor building. You can see the stars, however, it is far from the results we are after, right?

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3. Camera settings

First, you will need a lens with a large aperture. Our tutor used a canon 16-35mm at f/2.8.

Next, set your camera at a reasonable / medium / high ISO (this value depends on the camera ISO performance). Some older cameras have maximum ISO 1,600, some new cameras have 12,000 ISO. Anyway, our tutor tried first using 1,600 on the below image which proved to be too high, then the final value was 800 but the sky in this image was very bright due to the northern lights.

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Other images might require a higher ISO value like the one below 1,250 because the sky was much darker.

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Finally, put your lens in manual focusing and turn the focus to infinity; you will need a lens with infinity focus settings (that value / symbol can be found at the end of the focusing scale on the lens)

4. The final setting: shutter speed. Stars are far away from earth but the earth is rotating so you will need to use a shutter speed “fast” enough in order to avoid star trails. The shutter speed should be no longer than approximately 30 seconds. If the landscape around (or the sky) is quite bright you can actually achieve shutter speeds as fast as 15 – 20 seconds using a large f/2.8 aperture and a medium to high ISO.   

This one was taken on a tripod and it is quite obvious. 

Good luck with your starry night sky photography and don’t forget to send us your images for review and to include them in our School’s collection.

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