AskExpert- moon shot – unable to get details and color

I tried to take super moon shots this week using many settings, but was unable to get details and color of magnificent moon.  When I googled it,  there were other Nikon 7100 users who had the same problem and just got big white overexposed moon.  Any  suggestions would be helpful.
Laura B.


AskExpert- moon shot – unable to get details and color — 4 Comments

  1. Here is a suggestion from Joe Fitzpatrick:

    Your meter is being fooled by the black night sky. The default metering
    mode on most cameras, including the Nikon D7100, is matrix or evaluative.
    In that mode the camera will attempt to make the night sky gray,
    overexposing the Moon. Instead of fooling with exposure compensation, set
    your camera to full manual. Use the Loony 11 Rule as a starting point for
    proper exposure. The Loony 11 Rule is aperture to f/11 and shutter speed to
    1/ISO, e.g., ISO 100 & SS 1/100, ISO 200 & SS 1/200. If the Moon is near
    the horizon you will need to slow the shutter or open the aperture by two
    stops or so. Take a test shot and adjust as needed.

    The camera’s auto white balance can also be fooled. If Auto white balance
    is not giving you the color you want try Tungsten to make the Moon bluer or
    Daylight or Flash to make it more yellow. Get the exposure right before
    playing with the white balance as it effects the result.

    Joe Fitzpatrick

  2. Our eyes adjust rapidly to the difference between the bright surface of the
    full moon and the much darker foreground. Thus to us it may not seem that
    way, yet in the night sky the full moon is as fully lit by the sun, as the sand
    on the beach in daytime here on the earth. Therefore the correct exposure
    to capture the texture of the moon is roughly the same as if you were taking
    a photo on the earth at daytime. That requires the camera to take vastly
    different exposures to capture the texture of the moons surface vs. to capture
    trees, structures, water or people in the foreground. Meantime, the moon
    is such small part of the image that usually, the camera in auto-exposure
    mode simply measures the exposure for the foreground.

    Most often you can get interesting moon pictures by creating silhouettes
    when exposing for the moon. I took the attached last night as the moon
    was rising. When the moon is that low, the light weakens as it has to travel
    through a lot more air, and the exposure could be slightly longer, getting
    closer to that for the foreground without burning out the details. This shot
    was exposed 1/10 sec. f/4, ISO 200 and still somewhat overexposed – wish
    I had it at ISO100). Nothing great about it. Even here, most of the detail I
    captured was from the clouds in front of the moon not the moon surface

    Tripod is highly recommended. Expect that you may need some processing
    in Photoshop (Elements) or Lightroom. HDR processing may work as well.
    The best way to tune in for a good exposure is checking the histogram on
    the camera display, and to set the blinkers that warn you of overexposure.

    For the next full moon opportunity I am planning a sneakier, more powerful
    way around the problem. Full moon happens when our globe is nearly in
    straight line between the sun and the moon (I.e. light behind the camera).
    At that time their movements are such that sunset and moonrise happens
    almost simultaneously. (E.g. respectively 8:22pm and 8:33pm at my location
    yesterday 7/12/14).

    The trick is that day-to-day time change for sunset is just a few minutes, but
    in the same time period, the moon rises 40-50 min. later every day. Therefore
    the day before the official day of the full moon, it will rise long enough before
    the sunset that it can photographed while the foreground is still lit by some
    sunlight. That may not qualify as full moon for astronomers, but it is close
    enough for me.

    Apps, like TPE (The Photographer’s Ephemeris) provides for every date and
    every location the exact direction where the sun and the moon will cross the
    horizon. The screenshot below shows that information for 7/15/14 just South of
    the Naples Pier.

    Bob Kenedi

  3. The full moon is a lot brighter than most people estimate. About EV 15 — which is equivalent to 1/500th, f/8.0, and ISO 100. Any of the auto modes will be fooled by the small bright object surrounded by complete blackness. Try manual exposure settings — as above or some other nearby EV number.
    For a chart of EV number equivalents, go to:
    R L Caron