How To Photograph The Supermoon, According To A Pro

By Chicagoist_Guest in News on Nov 14, 2016 6:00PM

By Tyler LaRiviere, Chicagoist photographer

Chicagoans on Monday night get to relish one last time the awesome, super-sized astrological phenomenon known as the supermoon.

As you may have learned, a supermoon occurs when a full moon reaches perigree (or the closest point to Earth in the moon's orbit), and the moon, Earth and sun also all line up.

"When a full moon makes its closest pass to Earth in its orbit it appears up to 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter, making it a supermoon," according NASA.

This isn't your regular old supermoon either. The last time we witnessed a supermoon on this scale was 1948, and according to experts, a similar phenomenon won’t be seen again until 2034. So if you want to flaunt this rare astrological spectacle on Instagram or Facebook for your friends and followers to ogle, try these tried and tested tips to get the best results from either your DSLR or you smart device.

General Tips

- Research: Do your homework before you head out and try to photograph the supermoon. Know what times the moon will be coming up from what direction. Also, scout locations, so you know what will work and what won’t work to get your photo.

- Add Context: The moon in the night sky is quite a nice photo, however, it doesn’t tell us much of how big the moon is, so try to include buildings or landmarks to show the scale of the image.

Recommended Gear

- DSLR: From a basic entry level Nikon’s to a professional Canon cameras, any DSLR will work.

- Tripod: To get the best results you should use a tripod to give it a nice stable surface. As the moon come’s out at night, a tripod will also allow you to use slower shutter speeds on your camera and will result in sharp, not shaky, images.

- Remote: A remote or cable release is also recommended as it keeps your hands away from the camera during longer shutter speed resulting in sharper images.


- Shoot in Manual Mode: Use a higher shutter speed to compensate for the moons extra brightness. Lower your ISO so your images are as clean as possible. Use the lowest aperture number your lens can possibly go down to gather as much light as possible.

- Try HDR: HDR or High Dynamic Range Photography is a technique in which you combine three photos—an underexposed image, a properly exposed image, and an overexposed image—in one photo to get stunning results. To combine the images use programs such as Photoshop or Lightroom.

- Shoot in RAW: Shooting in RAW will allow you the most leeway when editing your images. For Nikon RAW is called NEF and for Canon it’s CR2. RAW isn't an image file so you will need Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom to process your image.

Smart Devices

- Hidden Settings: Smartphones camera apps have hidden settings that most users aren’t aware of, ones that will help you best photograph the supermoon. In most camera apps, when you tap the screen the camera will focus and expose on the subject tapped. If you hold it down, your camera will lock the focus and the exposure, allowing you to recompose your image, and will prevent your phone from taking over while snapping a photo. If you want more control over the camera in your smart device, download ProCam 4.

- Don’t Zoom, Crop: It may seem tempting to zoom in, especially with how small the moon will look on your smart device. But zooming on your smart phone isn’t like zooming on a camera lens, where large glass elements enhance the size of the image in the viewfinder. Zooming on your smart device is what’s called digital zoom, where in real time the image is cropped before it’s taken. This causes lower resolution images. Instead, take the image normally, then use an application such as Photoshop or Lightroom to edit the image and crop. This will maintain the resolution and give you better results.

- Turn Off Flash: Your smart device may try to use it's flash due to the low light. Just turn it off; it won't do anything but mess with the exposure, causing in darker images and drain your battery.