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Shooting Stars: How to Photograph the Night Sky

night sky photography
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Darker nights? Shorter days? Despair not! The shift from autumn to winter is the perfect time to get out there and capture some atmospheric photos of the night sky. Take a look at these night sky photography tips to help you get started.

how to photograph the night sky

Tap into Technology

Looking for that perfect night sky photography opportunity? Whether you’re tracking the Northern Lights or want to capture that smiling crescent moon, there’s an app to help you do just that. We’ve highlighted a few useful applications below – but rest assured, there are many more! Search in your favourite app store to find the right one for you:

  • Light Pollution Map: Find dark skies with this light pollution tracker. Ideal if you’re in search of the perfect starry night shot.
  • My Moon Phase: Keep track of the moon with this lunar calendar. The app even includes quick photography tips based on the lunar phase.
  • AuroraWatch UK: Track the Northern Lights with this app from Lancaster University. It uses a traffic light system to let you know how likely it is you’ll see the Aurora Borealis across the UK on any given night.
Night sky photography tips: Northern lights in Scotland

Make the Most of Man-made Photo Opps

Of course, you don’t have to wait for those natural night sky events to happen. There are some great man-made opportunities to capture an inspiring sky scene too. Fireworks displays can make for a high-impact composition – so take a look at what’s happening in your local area around Bonfire Night and New Year’s Eve.

There’s an art to capturing that Catherine wheel in action – consider carefully how you frame your shot, and look for opportunities to capture areas of interest in the foreground. A silhouette against a bonfire background can make a dramatic scene just perfect for showcasing as a canvas print in your home.

Night photography tip: Smoke gets in your eyes – and clouds up your best night sky photography shots too! For clearer images, arrive at the fireworks display early so you can take your photos before too much smoke builds up.

Ready to give it a go? Read more top tips on photographing fireworks.

Lose the Light Pollution

Is your ideal shot thousands of stars glistening overhead? Then it’s time to leave the light pollution behind in favour of clearer skies – and the perfect night sky photography shot. Towns and cities tend to have higher levels of pollution that will hamper your ability to star-gaze. Instead, head out to more rural areas where air quality is cleaner and you’re likely to see far more stars in the sky.

An autumn camping trip is the perfect opportunity to capture that sparkling sky shot – so remember to pack your camera in your camping kit.

Night photography tip: Want to photograph the stars in motion? You’ll need to use a longer shutter speed to capture those light trails. As always with long exposure photography, use a tripod to keep your camera stable and avoid the image blurring.

taking night sky photos of shooting stars

Tweak your ISO Setting

You’ve found the perfect scene to snap and got the composition spot on. So you’ll want to make sure that your image is as clear as it can be. And that means letting in enough light.

When it comes to choosing an ISO setting for night sky photography, you’ll need to choose a higher ISO than you would use for shooting the same landscape in daylight. For example, an ISO setting of 1600 is a good place to start, although you may want to adjust this slightly, based on the results you want to achieve. This is because while a higher ISO setting compensates for lower light situations, but will also increase digital noise within the image. To create your perfect shot, you’ll want to strike the right balance.

Night photography tip: Trying to find the right night sky photography settings? Getting the balance of ISO and shutter speed right can involve a bit of trial and error. You may need to alternate between adjusting your ISO setting and your shutter speed until you achieve the result you want. It takes time to get right, but when you’re after that perfect shot, it pays to be patient.

Showcase Your Best Shots

With all the work that goes into taking night sky photos, you’ll want to show off your favourite images. Got tons of shots to share? Showcase them in a premium photo book. Look for large and extra-large formats, layflat binding and photographic quality papers to transform your photos into a coffee table book, ready for visitors to flick through.

night photography tips

Got one standout image you really want to display? Create a canvas print – it’ll make the ideal wall art for your home, or even a personalised gift for friends.

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