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Photo Tutorial — Photograph The Night Sky

Published by Diana Tula · August 8th 2013

Hey! Let’s go on a trip together and take night sky photos. Our journey will be guided by Dave Morrow. Dave is a fellow 500px-er, adventure junky and he loves teaching photography. In this tutorial you will learn how to hunt for a dark sky, choose the right equipment, discover 500 rule, and take awesome photos.

This weekend is a new moon and perfect for star photography along with the meteor showers. Watch out for that perfect night sky and get ready to shoot.

Introduction


Star photography seems like a daunting task, but trust me it's much easier than you think. When I first picked up a camera and decided to capture some shots of the night sky I could barely see a light at the end of the tunnel. Now, a few months and a few hundred shots later, that light is shining bright and I’m here to share with you the information and experiences I gained along the way.

But wait, there is one problem, from your vantage point there may be a million and one factors keeping you from seeing the mesmerizing beauty of space or the Milky Way. Most of us live in locations where cloud cover, smog and light pollution are the number one enemy of the night sky photographer. That’s where I come in, armed with my tutorials, presets, and simple tricks you will have all the ammunition necessary to defeat the odds and capture the beauty of space and the galaxy that lies beyond. I do have a few small errands for everyone to run prior to departing on our trip, so grab a sturdy tripod, wide angle lens, a camera with manual mode functionality and your imagination, let’s head for the stars.

What You Need


#1 The number one key element to capturing the night sky, Milky Way, or stars in general is having a dark sky, and I mean the darkest sky possible. Please note, if you can’t see the Milky Way with the naked eye, it will be very hard to capture it any better on camera. Here are a few solutions to ensure the best shots possible, first of all check a Light Pollution Map.

#2 The next equally important step is checking the moon phase. If there is a moon in the sky, by no means will the stars appear to shine as bright. Our moon is much closer than any of the stars seen in the night sky, therefore it appears to shine much brighter. Shooting on nights of the New Moon ensures that the moon is not visible in the sky and that the Milky Way appears as bright as possible. A great resource for tracking down this information is the The Photographers Ephemeris.

#3 The third crucial item is a very sturdy tripod, this is one of the steps that many people miss out on and therefore sacrifice the quality of their star shots. I currently use a Really Right Stuff TVC-34L Versa Series 3 Tripod with BH-55 Ballhead and Nikon D800 L-Bracket and find it to be hands down the best set up out there.

#4 The 4th and last necessary Item is a camera with manual mode functionality that shoots in RAW format. This allows the user to have ultimate control when capturing the stars and in the post processing environment.. My preferred star photography camera is the Nikon D800, which handles the high ISO and noise induced from night sky shooting flawlessly. Although it is not necessary, having a camera remote/timer and very fast (wide aperture) wide angle lens will greatly improve the results of your star shots. I shoot with and highly recommend the Nikkor14-24mm f/2.8G and/or Nikkor 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens for all my star shots. At f/2.8 they are both VERY fast lenses.

Lens & Camera advice. If you are looking to get into star photography and are not sure what kind of camera or lens to select there are a few pointers to keep in mind. First off, if your wallet is deep enough a full frame camera with a 35mm sensor is the best way to capture the night sky, a medium format camera will also work wonders but comes with an even higher price point. When talking full frame sensors a few good ones come to mind. In the world of Canon the 5D Mark II or Mark III will work fine along with the 6D models. There are a few other options such as the Nikon D700 or the D600 on the Nikon side of things. Looking at cameras that do not include a full frame sensor the Canon 7D or the Nikon D5100 will somewhat do the trick, but a full frame camera is really necessary to capture the Milky Way and all it’s stars.

Moving along to lenses there are a few major points that need to be touched on. Having a lens with an aperture of f/3.5 or faster is absolutely necessary for capturing the Milky Way, for star trails it is not at all necessary. Here are a few great lenses that will work wonders on your full or crop sensor camera. I consider the NIkkor 14-24 F/2.8G wide angle lens to be the best star photography lens on the planet, I use it for 95% of my star shots and it never fails. Another yet cheaper option would be the Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 or the Rokinon 24mm f/1.4. I have also been experimenting with my Nikkor 16mm f/2.8 Fisheye which seems to do a fine job less the insane amount of distortion, which at times can look very cool and out of this world.

Step by Step


Head on over to my Free Star Photography Tutorial and download a free copy of my 500 Rule Chart if you like, we will use it in the following section.

First off let’s get one thing straight, and then we will move on to some interesting math homework, sounds like fun right? To get successful shots of the Milky Way you will have to have a very visible and clear view of it with your naked eye. If you can’t clearly see it, physics won’t allow you to capture it with your camera without inducing a massive amount of ambient light which will destroy the picture. That takes all the trouble of finding the Milky Way out of the equation, so now your job is to find a really dark spot where you can see it and start shooting using the following steps.

500 Rule. Let’s let the math homework begin. OK OK, I’m just kidding the math part has already been taken care of in the form of this chart (provided). And now I introduce to you the 500 Rule. Even though it appears to be quite complicated the concept is simple in theory and crucial to capturing clear star shots.

No Star Trails. To prevent star trails, also known as the visible change of the star’s location with respect to our earth’s location over the selected shutter speed, divide the number 500 by the focal length you are planning to shoot at, say 14mm for example, the result is the maximum exposure time for your shot in seconds.

Yes Star Trails. The great part about the 500 Rule is that it can also work in reverse for the shooter that is looking to capture star trails. For those of you that don’t shoot with full frame cameras it is necessary to take this “Crop Factor” into account when performing the calculation. I have provided standard crop factors for different camera models below. For example a full frame 35mm camera shooting at 16mm can capture the night sky for a maximum of 31 seconds prior to showing any results of “Star Trails” in the picture. Once the exposure time exceeds 31 seconds, trails or star movement will start to show up in the shot. The best way to clearly exhibit this relationship is to go outside and experiment, there are a million different acceptable combinations it’s just a matter of finding what works for you and your camera. My Free Star Photography Tutorial also provides info on this topic.

Capturing the Image


Now that a lens and exposure length has been reviewed it’s time to get down to the technical aspects which I will refer to as the Big Three: aperture, ISO and shutter speed.

I currently shoot my night shots with a focal length of 14-24mm, ISO ranging from 3000-5000 (depending on your camera these high settings may increase the noise exponentially) and shutter speed of 30 seconds. Keep in mind, a longer exposure picks up more light, which in turn means you will see stars that are farther and farther away from our planet. On the other hand light sources closer to our planet will appear brighter at longer exposure times. It is key to play around with the Big Three: aperture, ISO, and exposure time until the correct setting is achieved. Each of these settings directly reflects on one another, this being said there are many different combinations that will yield great results. The trick is to find out what works best for you and your camera, there is no right or wrong way to do it, just good and bad results.

Focusing at night can also become difficult. I find it easy to focus at infinity, take a practice shot to see how it looks then adjust focus from there. Usually infinity works just fine. See something you like in the foreground? Take one shot focusing on the stars, then another focusing on the foreground; these can in turn be blended together in Photoshop using layer masks for a sharp & interesting overall image. It is also worth noting that unless I am taking two shots to blend in the stars with my foreground using Photoshop, I only use 1 RAW exposure or file to capture the night sky. Since there is a very minimal range of light, the dynamic range of the image is low and a single exposure will work just fine.

Post Processing


Lightroom edits. When it comes to post processing star shots I use a few tools, the first being Lightroom 4. Lightroom can be used for basic RAW file conversion, color correction, basic luminosity control, contrast, sharpening and noise reduction. These can all be performed using the simple slider interface that is provided with the program.

Experimentation is once again the best way to find the best settings that work for you. To make life a bit easier I also made some Under the Stars Lightroom 4 presets that I use to process each one of my star photos. These presets will make the stars come to life and the colors pop with the click of a button.

Photoshop edits. Upon completing the noted steps, Photoshop and luminosity masks can be used to achieve ultimate control in bringing out the most in your star shots. Luminosity masking is the technique used in Photoshop to select only certain ranges of light in the picture. This being said its most powerful feature selects the bright stars and allows the user to brighten them, while the remaining darker portions of the photo remain untouched. On the other hand luminosity masks can also be used to allow a noise reduction layer to be applied to only the dark and noisy areas of the photo. Detailed selection and luminosity masking are both intermediate level Photoshop skills that take hours of practice but are well worth the reward!

After using luminosity masks in Photoshop my post processing is complete and I can save the file for later viewing or sharing on the web. I provide an Under the Star Post Processing Video Tutorial that covers all these steps denoted above in full detail.

For more info on star photography visit Dave Morrow’s website, Facebook page, check out his Free Star Photography Tutorial, or sign up to an online post-processing workshop. To add Dave to friends and follow his future uploads visit his 500px profile.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial! Did you have images taken with this technique? Upload them to 500px and share links in the comments below, we'd love to see your results :)

If you are looking for similar tutorials check out Long exposure photography, Painting with fire & How to create a ball of light. If you have a tutorial you’d like to share, be it in shooting, post production or tips for getting your work out there please get in touch, email blog@500px.com.

Thanks for reading!

     

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ChitraSivasankar
Chitra Sivasankar  4 months ago
Great Post!!! I am shooting the night sky today.
stevebiroschik
Steve Biroschik  6 months ago
This may be a dumb question, but do you use mirror lockup when you take these photos? I seem to have more blurry photos when I try it, so I assume I am doing something wrong.

Thanks for the awesome tutorial.

DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Hey Steve,

No sir I do not, but it wouldn't really hurt ya and it surely shouldn't make the photos blurry. I personally like to put a 2 second timer on when I take star shots, this give the camera shake 2 seconds to go away before taking the photo.

tenacityinpursuit
Dave Katz  6 months ago
Dave - Really excellent tutorial here, thanks for the awesome write up. Plus, these are some of the best images I've seen on 500px, and I love 500px! I had a question for you about dark frames. Do you ever find them useful? I've never tried, but supposedly they can be good for reducing noise in post? Also I was curious if you had any issues with battery heat and related noise on your images and if so, if you have experimented with a battery-grip (thinking it might move the heat of the battery farther away from the sensor).

P.S. Any tips on light-painting in the foreground? Love the lupines and I'm assuming they were done with an external light source.

DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Hey David,

I've never used dark frames, but I'm sure they would work really well. Printing 36" wide with my D800 I never see to much noise even shooting at ISO 4000-5000. For different camera set ups it probably wouldn't hurt to give them a try. I always experiment with as much as possible to see what works and what doesn't.

Never run into the battery heat issue. But then again when I go out to shoot at night I may only take 10 images. I walk around a lot finding new compositions and try to shoot really selectively. In time lapse this may become a much larger prob.

PS: Just pure experimentation. It works well to cup a light in your hands and not shine it directly for stuff really close. This keeps the light a little "softer" on the flowers in the foreground.

Glad you like the pics, have a good one!
Dave

ricrdv
Ricardo Vargas  6 months ago
Great! my pictures are coming.
BrunoPala
Bruno Pala  6 months ago
Thanks! Great article I'll try out with my poor Canon 500d
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
thanks Bruno. You can still get some good stuff with that camera:)
DJinator
David Johnson Productions  6 months ago
This is a great tutorial, Dave! I have a question that no matter how hard I search the internet, I can't find the answer to: What picture profile would you recommend using on a 5D MKII? I always shoot RAW, but never figured out what profile is best. Also, even when shooting in a very dark night sky with little to no light pollution, my camera never seems to capture any color in the galaxy, how do you achieve shots with so much color and galaxy detail? My shots always just end up as a the galaxy looking like an area in the sky with just a lot more stars and that's it.
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Hey David,

I'm not sure what you mean by picture profile? I just shoot uncompressed RAW per the settings above at whatever white balance gives give me a close resemblance to what I see in the sky at that moment then do the rest of the color adjustment at home on the comp.

I cover my full post processing workflow in the tutorial linked above. You can also find it at www.LearnStarPhotography.com

AidenAzran
Awesome Account
Aiden azran  6 months ago
first of all great tutorial i loved it i have a few questions 1- is it possible for mw to shoot with my 50mm f1.4 night sky with d600 ? i cant afford at the moment wide lens 2- can i see the milky way from any place in the world or a specific place ?
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
1) Sure of course. 2) Anywhere in the world that's dark enough.
AidenAzran
Awesome Account
Aiden azran  6 months ago
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JCH_Photo
Jerome Chiarandini  6 months ago
Nice tutorial, thank you.
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
no prob Jerome. You're welcome
tenacityinpursuit
Dave Katz  6 months ago
Comment hidden
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Comment hidden
salvadorsalais85
Salvador Armendariz  7 months ago
can't wait to try this. thank you!
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
You're welcome:)
YounesBoudiaf
Younes Boudiaf  7 months ago
Thanks for the tutorial which seems good for beginners ! but your milky way colors are wrong, except the first one which seems close to real colors, grass is green its not blue, milky way is not blue either.. stars have colors and those colors has meanings (temperature, age, distance,...) and playing with those colors give us wrong information about those stars.. Astrophotography is education and art.
for more info:
http://www.space.com/14248-milkyway-galaxy-white-color.html
http://christophmalin.com/2013/01/the-color-of-the-milky-way/
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
I didn't know astrophotography had a true definition. I just do what makes me happy.

Cheers

pilgrimbreizh
Aurélien Arnold  7 months ago
Really good and understandable article. Thank you so much.
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Thanks! Glad you liked it!
MyrtleBeach
감사합니다^^
vibhoothiiaanand
Vibhoothi Photography  7 months ago
Sir ,
Can we take sky shoots IF there are no stars are visible and
with canon sx500is can we take night sky photos???
please Reply
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
You can take night sky shots anytime, but without a dark sky it will be hard to see the stars in your photo
YounesBoudiaf
Younes Boudiaf  7 months ago
Usually camera capture more stars than what human being can see, because the camera can make long exposure shots. however if you are in a light polluted area where with naked eyes is hard to see even some stars then this will be almost impossible to capture any star with your camera ! so its better to go far from the city where there is no light pollution and make some good shots.
for the canon sx500is, I guess it has a manual mode and if you can make your exposure time 30 sec, just push your ISO to the max and open your Iris at max and you can get some stars, but you'll not get good quality pictures. if you can get a DSLR and a relatively good lens with f2.8 aperture that will be good for you to start making some beautiful shots.
if you're a Canon user you can get a cheap 550D with Samyang 14 mm 2.8 you can get wonderful shots.
BurnhamArts
James Burnham  7 months ago
There is a more detailed light pollution atlas at http://djlorenz.github.io/astronomy/lp2006/overlay/dark.html
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Cool I'll check it out. Thx
HakimMuzaher
Hakim Muzaher  7 months ago
Wonderful. Thank you
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
No prob.
MXPalau
Maxwell Palau  7 months ago
You I have some awesome shots. This is a great tutorial.

I shoot with a Canon 60D with a Rokinon 14mm f/2.8 and get some pretty decent shots.

This is one of my best yet. Take a look.
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mxpalau/11156534384/
500px: http://500px.com/photo/53703006

DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Thanks. So do you. Good stuff Maxwell!
MiguelMartinez25
Awesome Account
Miguel Martinez  7 months ago
Excellent article and explanation, it makes it much easier to try and shoot the stars, thank you very much.
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Sure no prob. Good luck:)
danpricephotography
Dan Price  7 months ago
Very informative article, thanks. In addition to checking for the presence of the moon, you also want a sky clear of clouds. GetOutCast checks both for you and let's you know which hour(s) tonight will give you the best chance:
https://www.getoutcast.com/forecast/23238/photo-stars/
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Haha yeah that's very tru. I figured that was a given ;)
salvajaen
Salvador Martínez  7 months ago
Magnificent work and explanation. Congratulations
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
thanks!
bthottoli
b thottoli  7 months ago
Great study
emrahayvali
Emrah Ayvalı  7 months ago
Awesome article, thanks for sharing.
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
you're welcome!
Lowlandsman
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Dave Smith  7 months ago
Excellently written article Dave..! thanks for posting ... valuble info..!
regards Dave
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Sure no prob!
YousefAlsharif1
Yousef Alsharif  7 months ago
good ^_^
RyanMelton
Ryan Melton  7 months ago
Lol. I have the camera and lenses he mentioned as examples ;}
jstires
John Stires  7 months ago
Thanks, Dave, great help for night shooting... makes me drool for dark skies. In fact I can bear-ly stand it
http://500px.com/photo/12310503
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
you're welcome John. Haha! It's an addicting thing to shoot
szaranger
Sean Amarasinghe  7 months ago
This article is invaluable.
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Cheers Sean, thank you
joaoconradoreis
Plus Account
joao conrado reis  7 months ago
awesome, I will try theses valuable tips. thanks
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
sure no prob! Enjoy
JoseMRada
Jose M Rada  7 months ago
Muchas Gracias,completo e ilustrativo articulo.

Saludos

mickeyschwartz
Michael Schwartz  7 months ago
Read all posts and saw you answered my question earlier. Thanks. GREAT IMAGES!
mickeyschwartz
Michael Schwartz  7 months ago
On the D800 do you use in camera high ISO noise reduction or long exposure noise reduction settings?
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Hey Michael,

I shoot with long exposure NR off for Milky Way Photos as the exposure is only around 30 seconds. When taking exposures for 10 stop ND I usually turn it on if the exposure will be over 1 min.

I keep high ISO NR at normal on my D800. Some cameras turn it on for you when you get over 1-2K ISO settings.

RuchikaSandolkar
Ruchika Sandolkar  7 months ago
Best article i've ever read. thank you so much for this tutorial.
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
That's awesome to hear. Thanks for letting me know! Have a good one
RpgDepictions
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Robert Gravel  7 months ago
Great article.... thanks :-)
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
you're welcome. Thanks for reading and commenting
tongfolio
tongfolio DDP.  7 months ago
Wonderful.
TimKeane
Tim Keane  7 months ago
have you ever used the Polarie Star Tracker or have any comments about it? see http://www.vixenoptics.com/mounts/polarie.html
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
I have not but they look awesome. Would like to fry it out soon! Have you tried one?
BarryDawson
Barry Dawson  7 months ago
Many thanks, I live on a recognised dark spot and when the clouds finally do a hike I try to get out. Certainly not got the results I want yet, but keep trying. Its certainly a game of patience.
robnelson
Awesome Account
Rob Nelson  7 months ago
Great write up, I often use stacking software for my star trails shots. This allows me to pull individual stills as well as gives me a time lapse sequence. Just another option.
zuussi
Jussi Mattila  7 months ago
Thank you for this tutorial!
FerdyChristant
Ferdy Christant  7 months ago
I've always thought star photography was out of my reach, but this tutorial gives me hope, thanks for that. I have most of the gear you mention (D800, good tripod, 14-24mm), the only missing piece is a truly dark night, as light pollution is insane here in the Netherlands.

I've also wanted to share an alternative tool for light/darkness planning:

http://www.jungledragon.com/daylight

Full disclosure: I created it, but it's non-commercial. You can see when the night is the darkest and also when there is a new moon. Hope you like it.

DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Awesome, Ill check it out. Thanks for sharing:)
RMFearless
Roberto Merola  7 months ago
great
abhinaynawani
Abhinay Nawani  7 months ago
i have canon 400d, and i have tried to click astro with a basic 18-55mm. max iso that i can get is 1600 and i cant afford a wide angle lense for now. few shots i tried are in the links below. these are post photoshop.
http://500px.com/photo/53637378
http://500px.com/photo/53350564
http://500px.com/photo/52977266
It will be an honour for me to get ur advice.
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
I personally don't think they are blurry from camera shake or shot vibration. A 30+ second exposure gives the camera time to level out back to steady state without degrading the shot even if some vibration is induced at the beginning of the exposure time.

The stars look sharp, but the "blur" effect is coming from lots of noise in the photo.
I personally don't ever shoot with a camera timer for milky way shots and it works out fine.

So to sum things up the only issue in this case is noise from your camera.

Hope that helps!

Have a good one.

DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Comment hidden
robnelson
Awesome Account
Rob Nelson  7 months ago
Your first two are blurry. Be sure to use a remote trigger or time delay the shot to avoid vibration. Also beware of wind shake of the tripod. For the third one try dropping the WB between 3200-3900K. With your equipment set up you're not going to be able to get milky way shots but star trails are an option.
kcvensel
Ken Vensel  7 months ago
Well the camera and tripod you have are WAY out my price range, oh well...
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
You can get some cheaper options. Personally I'd shoot for a nice tripod head before nice legs. Both are nice to have. You can get some good stuff for for way less than Really Right Stuff provides. I just love their stuff because I won't ever have to buy a tripod or head again in the next 10 -15 years.
robnelson
Awesome Account
Rob Nelson  7 months ago
As long as the camera is still any tripod will work. I buy mine off craigslist to save a bundle. Renting is always an option as well.
grottoli
Paul Grottoli  7 months ago
Wonderful. Thank you
PhotoRay
Ray  7 months ago
Thanks Dave,
I can't wait for a clear night sky, every time I saw these kind of milky way shots, I was curious on how they were made. Now with this tutorial I can start. Another good way to use my 14-24 besides landscapes. Thanks again I'm loving it.
mpurciel
Matt Purciel  7 months ago
Thanks Dave for your Tutorial. You have some cool galaxy shots. What ISO do you recommend shooting at? The challenge I have is the higher the ISO the grainier it gets. Do you have any success on reducing graininess in post production?
DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
You're welcome. Thank! I cover it in the tutorial. It all depends on your camera/lens setup tho. So I can't really give an exact number or range.

I cover advanced noise reduction techniques in my post processing video tutorials at www.LearnStarPhotography.com

Cheers,
Dave

robnelson
Awesome Account
Rob Nelson  7 months ago
He mentions this in the post "On the other hand luminosity masks can also be used to allow a noise reduction layer to be applied to only the dark and noisy areas of the photo."
ersinkoc
Awesome Account
Ersin Koc  7 months ago
Maybe we should add that 3200 kelvin for white balance will give a better result in colors, more correct colors.
robnelson
Awesome Account
Rob Nelson  7 months ago
Thats true, the cooler cast will help to hide light pollution as well. If you're shooting in RAW the WB can be adjusted in post but shooting around 32-3900K will give you truer results 'on the fly' shown on your camera screen.
noslenwerd
Drew Nelson  7 months ago
Hi Dave. Great write up! Quick question:

Not sure I am completely understanding the 500 rule. For instance I will be using a d600, with a 28-300mm lens @ f/3.5 & 28mm. Does that mean 18 seconds is the max exposure time to avoid star trails?

Thanks ahead of time!

DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  6 months ago
Thanks,

Yeah that's right, it's more of a "rule of thumb" or starting point than anything. You can get away with exposures a bit longer or a bit shorter than the 500 rule provides. It really depends on your gear setup and what you find to work best.

robnelson
Awesome Account
Rob Nelson  7 months ago
exactly
PamelaMiquelVergara
Pamela Miquel Vergara  7 months ago
thanks :)
kristofer_
K F  8 months ago
Hey Dave, thanks for sharing.

I do have both APS-C and FF cameras and am curious to understand your reasoning for shorter exposure time for APS-C to avoid star trails.
I know that a lot of people are talking about focal length equivalents, but technically, that is not correct. A crop sensor simply is that: it is cropping the outer areas of your shot. If I use a FF lens on my APS-C cam, the image in the center is identical, but the FF cam would show more image AROUND the center. Yet, star trails in the middle are exactly the same - if the sensor resolution (pixels per area, not the total pixel size) is the same.

IMHO, the exposure time actually has to be determined by the resolution of the image you want to use later on rather than a crop factor. Given that you want to use the max image size you can get, for example, a sony NEX 7 with 24 MP APS-C will show more star trails than a cam with FF and 12MP, but if you use a 12MP ASP-C and compare to a shot with a 36MP FF, you will actually see more start trails on the FF.

DaveMorrow
Dave Morrow  8 months ago
I use it more of a "Rule of Thumb" than an exact science. Close enough is good for me in this case:)

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