Saturday, March 19, 2011

It's Always High Noon on the Moon

Tonight will be the (pick one: biggest, brightest, closest) full moon in almost 20 years. A lot of guys will be out photographing it, so I thought I'd offer some advice for getting a properly exposed picture of the full moon. Most pictures of the full moon are overexposed--white discs with no surface detail. To get a properly exposed picture, remember the advice I got from The Nikon School traveling show back in the early 70's: it's always high noon on the moon.

This means that the proper exposure for a full-moon shot follows the Sunny 16 rule: the proper exposure for a sunny day is f/16 aperture and a shutter speed of 1/the ISO setting (1.e. 1/100 for ISO=100). So, for tonight, put your camera on manual mode and set the film-speed/sensitivity/whatever to 100, set the aperture to f/16 and the shutter speed to 1/100 sec. You can, of course, use any equivalent setting.

As was point out when I made this suggestion on The Online Photographer blog several months ago, this is only an approximation. The moon is actually a dark gray color (the color of coal, as the Greensboro Daily Photo pointed out) so the applicable rule is more-nearly the Sunny 13 rule, but in today's digital world, either will get you close enough for your first try. (Do remember that a newly rising moon will be darker than an overhead moon so exposure will be different for each position.) Good luck and good shooting.


Karen said...

I have a Panasonic DMC-FZ35 (a bridge superzoom camera) and while practicing last night on the 99% full moon found that the Sunset mode works extremely well. It brings down the brightness and bumps up the definition of the craters and mountains. (Although the camera allows me to shoot in manual mode, I still haven't *quite* got there yet).

Just a thought for the point-and-shooters.

Preston said...

Thanks for the suggestion. I feel a lot more comfortable setting some of the exposure parameters and I haven't done much with the various "scene" modes on my cameras. I like your blog and photos, particularly February Full Moon. Have you thought about listing your blog on WE101?