Sky-watchers are in for a celestial treat tonight, when the Moon will be the largest and brightest in 70 years. NASA and National Geographic have posted tips on how to best photograph the supermoon. We won’t see another supermoon like this until 2034, so make sure you get a look.
A “supermoon” occurs when the moon becomes full on the same day as its perigee, the point in the moon’s orbit when it is closest to Earth. The term is borrowed from the pseudoscience of astrology but has been adopted by popular culture and astronomers. Supermoons generally appear to be 14% bigger and 30% brighter than other full moons. While such moons occur around every 13 months, November’s is a special one.
According to NASA, this month’s supermoon “becomes full within about two hours of perigee — arguably making it an extra-super moon.”
Want to get an awesome picture of the Supermoon?
1. Include a reference landmark or objects in the picture
The most important tip is not to shoot the moon on its own. Remember to scope a vantage point already.
The shot will be most impressive if it shows a sense of scale. Try capturing the moon when it’s close to the horizon, so the image includes a foreground. As it rises over a city or a local landmark, for example, or over headlands if you’re near the coast.
NASA’s senior photographer Bill Ingalls – who took the picture above – recommends being in an urban area where there’s more light.
“It’s all relative. For me, it would be maddening and frustrating — yet it may be a good challenge, actually,” he told NASA. “You’re not going to get a giant moon in your shot, but you can do something more panoramic, including some foreground that’s interesting.”
2. Only use Optical Zoom
For capturing the image on smartphones, National Geographic staff photographer Michael Christopher Brown recommends using optical zoom only, and a tripod. “Ideally the phone is stabilized,” says Brown. Placing the phone on a ledge or windowsill, and using the timer is an option if a tripod is not available.
iPhone 7 Plus owners should get the most fun out of this simply due to the zoom afforded by that extra camera, as it will let you get closer optically. That’s what we want, by the way, since digital zoom — your regular pinch to zoom — blows up pixels.
A smartphone with some extra camera oomph can help so if you have some, get your gear ready.
3. Try Black and White
In August 2014, Sam Garcia was assigned to shoot the supermoon. He woke up, saw the moon outside his window, grabbed his camera, took a picture, and went back to sleep. The main tip by Garcia is to shoot the supermoon in black and white. The coloration is from the reflected light from the sun, and black and white retains the look of the moon.
You can also use the Adobe Lightroom app which has a built-in camera app and can store RAW images. If you’re not familiar with RAW, think of it as a digital negative, capturing more information and detail than a standard JPEG, and allowing you to extract this later on. In the app, click on the camera where two options should be offered — “JPG” or “DNG.” Choose DNG. It is Adobe’s RAW format, also known as Digital Negative, and when you capture images in this format, you’ll be able to get more detail out of them later on
4. Hone your focus technique
If you’re only using a smartphone camera, make sure you touch the moon to focus and also adjust for brightness.
“If you’re trying to get the moon in a scene, make sure to focus on where you want the light to be,” Stark said.
“For instance, if you’re up high enough to capture the moon over your capital city, hanging in the skyline, focusing on the moon could provide enough light for the buildings, while focusing on the darker buildings and exposing for this could turn the super bright light into a sun found at night.”
Check out these tips for taking the better photos with a smartphone too. Go forth and photo. Your Instagram followers will thank you.