8 min. to read
Have you ever looked at some of those incredible images of the Milky Way and wished you could create something that spectacular? Maybe you thought that photography like that was just too far beyond your skill level or that you didn't have the right equipment. Well, the fact is, Milky Way photography is part of a genre called wide-field astrophotography, and it's not as difficult as you might think, nor does it require lots of specialized equipment.
All you really need to get night shots of Earth's galaxy is a SLR or DSLR camera with good low-light capabilities and a high ISO setting. We're going to focus on using a DSLR camera in this lesson, since the only real difference is waiting for film to be developed. Here's what you need to know to get good photos of the Milky Way and how it's done:
There are a few very important things to know about Milky Way photography:
Before we move on, let's consider the last two items on that list. It should be apparent that you need to determine how long your shutter can be open before the stars begin to blur. Your camera sensor size and lens focal length will determine this, and there are a few apps that can help you figure it out. Here's a web-based calculator that will get you in the ball park.
Before you go, check weather conditions and make sure the Milky Way will be visible where and when you'll be shooting. There are apps than can help with that, too. Light Pollution Maps like Dark Sky Finder or Dark Sky for Android will help you find the best places to shoot. Apps like PhotoPills for iPhone and Stellarium for Android will help you locate the Milky Way. Use these tools to find where to go and when.
Once you've determined when and where to shoot and arrived there, here are the basic steps for camera setup:
*If your lens lacks an infinity setting, use the LED view to zoom in on a bright star and set the focus as sharp as possible.
When you return home with your photos, the real fun begins. You'll be amazed at how deep into space your camera sees. Chances are you'll want to do some noise reduction and you may also want to play with sharpening, contrast levels, vibrance and saturation, among other things.
A good editing software package will be your best friend at this stage and while Photoshop® is the go-to app for many photographers, We'd recommend that Mac users try Luminar by Skylum. It's intuitive, powerful and inexpensive, and you can use this link to get 10% discount on your Luminar purchase. Take a look at some of their awesome video tutorials to see how easily you can get the most from your photos.