amazing star trails Photo by Paul Pastourmatzis on Unsplash

A Beginner's Guide to Astrophotography: Gear | Camera Settings | Tips

January 5, 2023

Astrophotography is a fascinating and rewarding hobby that allows you to capture breathtaking night sky images. With technological advances and the increasing availability of specialized equipment, astrophotography is now more accessible than ever.

This guide will provide an overview of the gear, camera settings, and tips for astrophotography. Whether you're a professional photographer or a complete beginner, below is essential information you need to get started in astrophotography.

What is Astrophotography?

Astrophotography is photography that focuses on capturing images of celestial objects, such as stars, planets, galaxies, and nebulae. Astrophotography is usually done using specialized cameras, tracking mounts, and other equipment that allow photographers to take long-exposure images of these objects. Astrophotographers often use filters, such as infrared filters, to capture the different colors and textures of the objects in the night sky.

Types of Astrophotography

There are several types of astrophotography, each with its unique characteristics and challenges. Here are some of the main types of astrophotography, along with some key terms and concepts:

Dark Sky

starry sky above the forest

Photo by Niklas Garnholz on Unsplash

In this kind of astrophotography, the night sky is photographed in areas with low light pollution. Locations with a dark sky are best for taking pictures of celestial objects that are faint and hard to see with the naked eye, like the Milky Way galaxy or the Andromeda galaxy.

Milky Way

photo of milky way

Photo by Graham Holtshausen on Unsplash

It captures images of the Milky Way galaxy, a barred spiral galaxy visible from earth's night sky. The Milky Way is best seen from dark sky locations and is usually photographed using a wide-angle lens.

Deep Sky

deep sky with star and lights

Photo by Bryan Goff on Unsplash

This type of astrophotography concentrates on deep space celestial objects, such as galaxies, Orion nebula, and star clusters. Deep sky astrophotography often requires specialized telescopes and long exposure times to capture the faint light of these distant objects.

Star Trails

amazing star trails

Photo by Patrick McManaman on Unsplash

Involve taking long exposure photos of the night sky to capture the movement of stars across the frame. The resulting images show bright streaks or trails of light caused by the earth's rotation during the exposure.


time-lapse of the moon

Photo by Jake Hills on Unsplash

This is capturing a series of night sky images over some time, then playing them back at a faster rate to create a time-lapse video. Time-lapse astrophotography can show celestial objects' movement, such as the sun or moon rising and setting or the stars' movement across the sky.

Meteor Shower

meteor shower in the starry sky

Photo by Austin Human on Unsplash

It involves photographing meteor showers, in which many meteors or "shooting stars" are visible in the night sky.

Bright Star  

bright stars in the sky

Photo by David Hajnal on shutterstock

Bright stars are celestial objects brighter than most other stars in the night sky. They are often visible to the naked eye and can be photographed using a telephoto lens.


hills under starry sky

Photo by John Fowler on Unsplash

This captures images that include celestial objects and elements of the terrestrial landscape, such as mountains, forests, or cityscapes. Nightscape astrophotography often uses a wide-angle lens to capture a large portion of the sky and the surrounding environment.

Solar System

stunning solar system

Photo by Vadim Sadovski on shutterstock

This type of astrophotography involves capturing images of objects in our solar system, such as the sun, new moon, planets, star clusters, and asteroids. Solar system astrophotography often involves using specialized equipment, such as telescopes or solar filters, to capture the faint light of these objects.

Low Light

great photo of the night river

Photo by Alex Perez on Unsplash

It involves taking photos in conditions with low light levels, such as dusk or in urban environments with light pollution. Low light astrophotography often requires long exposure times and high ISO settings to capture sufficient light for the image.

Essential Gear for Astrophotography

To get started with astrophotography, you will need some equipment, including the following:


A digital camera with manual exposure controls and the ability to take long exposures is essential for astrophotography. Many astrophotographers use DSLR or mirrorless cameras, but some also use specialized astrophotography cameras.

A full-frame camera with a high megapixel count can be beneficial for capturing a lot of detail in your images. Here are a few examples of Nikon, Sony, and Canon cameras that are commonly used for astrophotography:

Nikon D810


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This full-frame DSLR camera is known for its high-resolution sensor, which is important for capturing detailed images of celestial objects. It also has a good low-light performance and a wide dynamic range, which can be useful for capturing the range of brightness in the night sky.

Sony A7S III

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This mirrorless camera is known for its excellent low-light performance, making it a good choice for astrophotography. It has a full-frame sensor and a wide dynamic range, which can be useful for capturing the night sky's brightness range.

Canon EOS R

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It is a full-frame mirrorless camera with a fast autofocus system and a wide ISO range, making it well-suited for capturing images of moving celestial objects or shooting in low light conditions. It also has a silent shooting mode, which can be useful for taking long exposures without introducing a camera shake.

Camera Lens

A lens with a wide aperture (f/2.8 or wider) is important for letting in more light, essential for capturing faint celestial objects. A wide-angle lens is often used for astrophotography because it allows you to capture a large portion of the night sky in a single image. Examples of wide Angle lenses you can use include: Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG HSM, Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD, and  Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM

Rokinon 14mm f/2.8

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A telephoto lens, such as the Rokinon 135mm f/2 ED UMC  and Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD can be useful for capturing close-up shots of specific objects, such as the moon or planets.

Rokinon 135mm f/2 ED UMC

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Equatorial Mount

Celestron Advanced VX Computerized Mount

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An equatorial mount is a type of camera mount designed to follow the movement of the stars as the earth rotates. This allows you to capture longer night sky exposures without the stars appearing on the trail.

Star Tracker

Sky-Watcher Star Adventurer 2i Pro Pack – Motorized DSLR Night Sky Tracker

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A star tracker is a device that uses motors to move the camera in sync with the movement of the stars, allowing you to take longer exposures without the stars appearing on the trail.

Remote Shutter Release

Camera Remote Shutter Release Wireless

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A remote shutter release, also known as a cable release, allows you to take photos without touching the camera, which can reduce camera shake.


Celestron NexStar 8SE

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A telescope is a critical equipment for astrophotography, as it gathers and focuses light from celestial objects. The best astrophotography telescope will depend on factors like your budget and personal preferences. Some of the best telescopes for astrophotography include Celestron NexStar 8SE and Sky-Watcher ProED 80mm APO

Camera Settings

It's important to understand and use the various camera settings available. Here are some of the key camera settings that you should consider when taking astrophotography photos:

ISO Setting

In astrophotography, you typically want to use a lower ISO setting to reduce image noise (graininess) and improve image quality. However, if you're taking photos in low light conditions, you may need to increase the ISO setting to get a properly exposed image.

Shutter Speed

Use a longer shutter speed to allow more light to reach the sensor, which can help to capture more faint celestial objects. However, if you're taking photos of moving objects (such as the stars), you may need to use a shorter shutter speed to avoid blurring.

Exposure (focal length)

meteor shower on the mountain

Photo by Benjamin Voros on Unsplash

Regarding astrophotography, use a longer focal length (telephoto) lens to capture more detailed images of celestial objects. This is because longer focal lengths allow you to capture more light and produce brighter clearer images.


To allow more light to reach the sensor, use a wider aperture (lower f-number). This can aid in image clarity and noise reduction.

Manual Focus

In astrophotography, it's often necessary to use manual focus rather than relying on the camera's autofocus system. This is because celestial objects can be faint and may not be picked up by the autofocus system. To manually focus your camera, you'll need to adjust the focus ring on your lens until the image appears sharp on the camera's viewfinder or LCD screen.

White Balance

a man staring at the starry sky

Photo by Usukhbayar Gankhuyag on Unsplash

Use a white balance setting that is cooler (bluer) to match the color of the night sky. You can adjust the white balance setting in your camera's menu or use a custom white balance setting.

Tips to Capture Awesome Night Photos

Here are a few more tips to help you capture awesome night photos:

Use Manual Mode

Shooting in manual mode will give you more control over your camera's settings, allowing you to adjust the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO as needed. This is especially important for night photography, as you may need to adjust these settings to get the right exposure.

Use Phone Apps

Many phone apps available can help you with night photography, such as camera apps with manual controls or apps that help you calculate the correct exposure for a given scene. Some examples include Sky Safari, PhotoPills and Sky Guide:

Use Autofocus Sparingly

Autofocus can be problematic in low-light situations, so you may switch to manual focus or use a different focusing method (such as focus peaking).

photo of deep sky

Photo by Brett Ritchie on Unsplash

Pay Attention to the Field of View

The field of view (FOV) of your lens can greatly impact the look of your night photos. A wide-angle lens will give you a wider FOV and can be used to capture the expanse of the night sky or cityscapes. A telephoto lens, on the other hand, will give you a narrower FOV and can be used to isolate specific subjects or details.

Use a Flashlight or Other Light Source Creatively

Using a flashlight or other light source creatively can add interest and depth to your night photos. Try shining the light on different subjects or using it to add a sense of movement.

Shoot in Raw

Shooting in raw format will give you more flexibility in post-processing, allowing you to adjust to exposure and other settings as needed. This is especially important for night photography, where you may need to make significant adjustments in post.


Astrophotography is a fascinating hobby that anyone with a passion for the night sky can enjoy. With the right gear, camera settings, and tips, you can start capturing stunning images of the stars in no time. With a bit of practice and patience, you will soon be able to take amazing astrophotos. So, grab your camera and get ready for a night of beautiful stargazing!

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