Get the Contrastly Dispatch! no thanks! sure thing!

Be awesome and enter your name & email below to get access to original photography articles, resources, deals, tutorials, and advice sent to you for free every 2 weeks! You'll love it!

How To Take Photos of Moonset and Moonrise

April 5, 2013 by Michael Gabriel

Many people love to take photos of sunsets because, according to them, the scene almost always gives off a dramatic effect. There are others, however, who also love taking photos of the moon – moonsets and moonrises, specifically.

Compared to the sun, though, photographing the moon can be a bit tricky. For one, they come out at night, which means you have to consider the dark background. Also, oftentimes, the weather becomes quite unpredictable. When it becomes cloudy, the moon is covered. As is the case, it is important to take note of a couple of elements when taking photos of moonsets and moonrises.

Moonset In The Chaparral
Moonset In The Chaparral – photo by Steve Berardi

Here are some tips and tricks that can help you, even if you’ve just started to click away your camera.

The First Element: Timing

Timing is very important when taking photos of the moon – whether it is rising or setting, it doesn’t matter. Since no one can accurately predict when the moon will exactly come out, most photographers often wait out for an hour or so to make sure that they don’t miss the moment when the moon rises. Like the sunrise, it can come quite quickly. It is best to do a quick research on the different times of moonsets and moonrises in the place where you want to take the photos. You may also want to find a moonrise and moonset calculator.

Photographers who prefer the moonset like to play with the colors that burst throughout the sky. It is pretty much like photographing the sun as it sets and reflects on the lake or the sea – rich in colors and vivid outlines.

It is important to note, however, that seasoned photographers avoid taking photos of the full moon. One reason for this is that they often appear dull and boring in the photos. They do not give out a lot of interesting images. The most recommended moon phase to take photos of is those of the quarter moon. Its crescent shape adds a lot of beautiful images, highlights and shadows.

Taking a photograph of the rising moon in the twilight sky is not recommended because the sky can appear too dark. When you look into your camera, the sky may appear lighted or a little bright; when the photo comes out, though, it will appear dark. This setting is only good for seasoned photographers with highly advanced equipment.

Try to find out the weather conditions in advance, too, so you’ll know whether to go on with your shoot or not. And if you go on, so you’ll know how to take good shots even at a slightly compromised situation.

Use the Magnify Feature

The moon is far away from us. It is approximately 384,400 km from Earth, but it often looks like it floats away. To create moonset and moonrise photos that are appealing, eye-catching and larger-than-life, magnify the image to the best that you can.

If your camera is a good one (an SLR or one with an incredibly high magnification feature), you’ll be able to paint a picture of a moon that’s almost like an arm’s length away from us. The details will be clearer, too; so it will look beautifully amazing.

Interesting Backgrounds or Foregrounds

Find a subject that you can take a photo of along with the moon. Most of the time, a picture becomes more interesting because it tells a story. You can add a background or a foreground that does not steal the limelight from the moon, but does enough to create a more striking picture. The best way to do this is to find a location that’s a little distant from the moon and the background or foreground subject.

Examples include a sparkling lake, a house covered by the moon’s light, a bird flying towards the moon and even the sky filled with twinkling stars. A good photographer knows how to tell captivating stories, so don’t be afraid to make your own.

Find A Good Location

You also need to find a good location if you want to come up with exceptional moonset and moonrise photos. Find one that will allow you to move freely so you can experiment with your shots. This will help you adjust easily when the moon rises or sets. Run if you need to; just be sure that you catch the moon at its best phase or angle.

If you want to photograph a moonset, keep in mind that it normally sets an angle. Position yourself in such a way that you’ll be able to catch its best angle once it approaches and starts to color the sky.

Be Creative

As mentioned earlier, photographers should be good storytellers. You can use this aspect to create your shots. Take time to conceptualize and visualize the picture you want to create. You can also work with a theme – i.e. moonset over the lake, moonrise over the mountains, moonset over the city. There are many ideas that you can cultivate. There’s always an interesting story to tell.

If you need an inspiration, scan or browse through magazines like National Geographic. You shouldn’t imitate shots, however. Just use them as inspiration or as idea-sparklers. Use the photos to get your creative juices flowing.

Finally, Your Equipment

Of course, having the right kind of equipment is essential in capturing the moonset and moonrise at their best. Your camera should not be a simple point-and-shoot as it would not be able to take clear photos at night or even during sunset. Find a good quality SLR with a remote shutter release that’s either infrared or corded. The focal length should also be significantly large for you to be able to exploit the magnification feature.

Be sure to use a tripod and MLU or mirror lock-up as this will help you take steady photos by eliminating vibrations. Using manual focus is better than relying on Auto Focus because it might not work well for your moon photos.

Lastly, find a camera that can take clear, vivid photos even without flash. Using flash for moonsets and moonrises will destroy the mood. More experienced photographers, however, can experiment by using flash and mixing it with twilight’s natural effects.

These tips will not guarantee that you’ll come out with exceptional moonset and moonrise photos on your first outing. Remember, practice makes perfect. And patience is a virtue. So be patient and practice a lot; and pretty soon, your moonset and moonrise photos will be deserving of a gallery audience!

Michael Gabriel

About the author: Michael Gabriel

Michael Gabriel L. Sumastre is an experienced freelance writer for hire. He has been professionally writing articles, blogs posts and tech content since 2005. Michael loves to take pictures of the countryside when he is touring with his motorcycle. He maintains his professional writing portfolio and personal blog at www.TheFinestWriter.com or on Google+.

  • http://www.facebook.com/serge.phillips.1 Serge Phillips

    Thank you Gabriel finally found out what i was doing wrong with the moon shots.
    Great post.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mikelgabriel Michael Gabriel Lucero Sumastr

    You’re welcome and thank you too Serge. :)