3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos

11 March 2024

If you’ve ever seen spectacular photos of a bright red moon against the night sky, that’s lunar eclipse photography. Just like solar eclipses, lunar eclipses are amazing natural events, but they can be tricky to capture. Even more of a challenge than full moon photography, capturing lunar eclipse photos will also require you to be familiar with low-light photography. But fear not - we have 3 tips to help you capture amazing lunar eclipse photos.

What is a lunar eclipse?

A lunar eclipse happens when the Earth moves midway between the sun and moon, blocking the sun’s light and casting a shadow across the moon. There are three types of lunar eclipses: a penumbral eclipse is when the Earth’s shadow (aka the umbra) starts to move over the moon, and a partial eclipse is when the moon passes through the shadow. Finally, a total eclipse is when the shadow completely covers the moon. This is known as a blood moon photography as the moon turns a vibrant red colour.

3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos

#1 Bring the right camera gear

3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos

Since the sky is so dark and your subject is literally so far away it’s out of this world, there’s a high chance of motion blur. For the best photos of the moon, you’ll want to use a tripod to keep your camera steady. 

Tripod aside, make sure you also pack spare memory cards and fully charged batteries – and keep those nice and warm. Lunar eclipses can take hours and the chilly night air can drain batteries quickly.

You’ll also need a shutter release to reduce vibrations and camera shake when you press the release button. We recommend a remote control, wired or wireless cable release or a threaded release, or you might be able to trigger the shutter from your phone. Intervalometers are a great investment if you take an interest in astrophotography – they are attached to your camera and you can program them before you start shooting.

If you’re planning to take lunar eclipse photos in the future, a star tracker is another good idea. You position this gadget in between your tripod and camera, and it moves in sync with the earth’s rotation to keep your camera still and in line with the night sky. In other words? It helps you trade in blurry star trail photos for beautifully sharp stars and galaxies.

#2 Capture your photos in manual mode

Most good cameras have autofocus mode, which should have no trouble honing in on the moon. But when the moon goes dark, that becomes more challenging for your camera’s autofocus mode.

It’s best to use manual mode from the beginning. This not only allows you to adjust the aperture, shutter speed and ISO throughout the shoot, but it will ensure your camera can stay locked in on the moon the whole time.

Shooting in RAW is a good idea, too. This will give you much more flexibility during the editing process — just don’t forget those extra memory cards. For more tips on how to use your camera’s settings, check out our guide to shooting in manual mode.

3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos

#3 Use the right camera settings for low-light conditions

3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos3 Tips for Amazing Lunar Eclipse Photos

As we mentioned earlier, getting good lunar eclipse images can be challenging due to the lack of light. When the moon starts to move over the Earth’s shadow, to get a solid exposure, your instinct may be to open your aperture, turn up your ISO and slow your shutter speed, leaving you with blurry, noisy and dark images. How do we mitigate this? Choosing the right settings for low-light photography will be key. Here’s how to nail the three points of exposure for your  lunar eclipse photography settings:

  • Aperture. For a decent depth of field, set your aperture to f/8. If your lunar eclipse pictures are still a little too dark, widen the aperture to f/5.6 or f/4.
  • ISO. The level of ISO sensitivity will come down to the other settings you’re using to expose your photo, and how clear the night sky is when you’re photographing the lunar eclipse. As a baseline, start with an ISO of 200 and play around with increasing or decreasing this if your lunar eclipse photos look under or overexposed. If your camera can adjust ISO automatically, this may be a good option.
  • Shutter speed. When the moon is bright, a shutter speed of 1/125th to 1/250th of a second should do the trick. But if you want to brighten the image, slow down the shutter speed and open the aperture. Just be aware that longer exposure time can lead to blurriness – either because of the moon’s movements or camera shake. Some mirrorless cameras and telephoto lenses have in-body image stabilization to combat this.

Practice your skills before the next lunar eclipse

Now that you know what gear to get and know the best tips for beautiful lunar eclipse images, you’re ready! Check the dates of the next lunar eclipse and go out there! Need more help? The experts at Ted’s Cameras are here to answer all your questions, online or in-store.

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