How To Photograph Star Trails

How To Photograph Star Trails

Of all the wonderful things you can do with your camera at night (like light painting), photographing star trails is one of the coolest (see photo above). All you need is a camera capable of bulb mode, a sturdy tripod, and an external or wireless or cabled shutter. You’ll also need some time and, depending on where you do this, possibly some warm clothing.Photo by Trevor Williams

DIY Photography has a great, in-depth guide on this entire process (linked below), but here are the basic steps you need to take when photography your own star trails:

  1. When composing the shot, avoid any direct light sources. Because this is a long exposure they’ll get blown out and potentially ruin the image.
  2. Focusing in the dark is difficult, so you want to make sure you get it right before you start. If you’re including foreground objects, try shining a light on them so your autofocus will pick them up more easily. If your main focus is the stars, take a few sample pictures first to make sure your focus is accurate.
  3. While you can always white balance in post, if you want to get it right from the beginning you’re going to need to decide what you want. Setting your white balance to Tungsten will cool down the redness you’ll generally pick up from a long-exposure night photo. The opposite would be setting your white balance to 10000 Kelvin, giving it an orange glow.
  4. Once you’ve got your composition down and your shot focused, set your exposure to the bulb setting.
  5. Set your camera’s aperture to pretty much the widest setting. An aperture of 3.5 to 4.0 is generally good. You may find a lack of detail if going too wide on a lens that has an aperture of wider than 2.8.
  6. Set the ISO to 200 (or 100 if you find you’re getting too much noise at 200).
  7. Press your remote shutter and let the exposure last 30 minutes..

If you want to create complex star trail photos by stacking multiple exposures, here’s some software that can help:

For a much more in-depth look at photographing star trails, be sure to check out the full post over at DIY Photography.

Your Complete Guide For Photographing Star Trails [DIY Photography]


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