How To Photograph The Milky Way

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Ever dream of taking a photo of the milky way but you don’t know where to start? In this article, I will show you the easiest step on how you can capture the beauty of the stars, especially, the Milky Way.

The Lover's Tree

First off, you must know the basics of photography, how the exposure triangle works (shutter speed, ISO, aperture).

What is the exposure triangle?

It is a common way of associating the three variables that determine the exposure of a photograph: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. One must balance all three of these to achieve a desired result, an adjustment of one requiring adjustments of at least one of the others.

Related image

  • Shutter Speed: the amount of time your camera shutter is open.
  • ISO: the sensitivity of your camera sensor
  • Aperture: the opening of a lens’s diaphragm through which light passes. The wider the opening, the larger amount of light comes in.

Things you need:

  • Camera
  • Wide lens with at least f/3.5 aperture
  • Tripod
  • Intervalometer/Shutter Remote
  • Flashlight

Planning: When and Where to Shoot

  • There are some things you need to consider in order to photograph the stars.
  • A place where there is less to zero light pollution.
  • A day when. the moon sets early, or a day that is set to have a new moon.
  • Best time to shoot Milky Way is between the months of March and October, this is when it shines the brightest and most visible.

Step 1: Test Shot

Set your camera settings to the following values:

  • ISO: 2000
  • Aperture: 2.8 (or the wider your camera can)
  • Shutter speed: Compute your camera shutter speed by dividing 500 by the focal length of your lens. Example: 500/18mm = 27.xx secs.

Once you’ve set your camera settings, focus on a distant light or set your lens focus to infinity. One technique I am doing is that I ask my friend to go few meters away from the camera and hold a flashlight and then I will focus at him/her. Once I am satisfied with the sharpness of the focus, I set my camera to manual to avoid the settings to be altered. You should also set your white balance into fix value, you can always change it in post. Also, you should always shoot in RAW so it is easier for you to adjust all the values and information stored by your camera.

Step 2.0: Shooting the Milky Way

Now that you’ve set your camera settings, you can now photograph the Milky Way. You can use a star tracker app like Stellarium in order to determine the position of the Milky Way and what time it will rise.

milky way
The Billion Star Hotel

Step 2.1: Shooting Timelapse

In order to shoot a star timelapse, you need to have a shutter remote or intervalometer so you can control you camera shutter without moving or shaking the camera. An intervalometer can also help set the interval and number of shots of your camera without needing to monitor it every shot.

Star Trails
My first attempt doing a star trail timelapse. 🙂 100 photos stacked using StarStax app.

In my case, I am using a Fujifilm X-T10 with 18-55mm f/2.8 lens, which has a built-in intervalometer. In order to get your desired output, you should remember that 1 second is equals to 24 still photos. So if you are planning to have a 5 second video timelapse, you should shoot the milky way 120 times.

1 second = 24 photos

Step 3.0: Post-processing Your Milky Way Shot

There are a lot of tools you can use to post-process your photos, in my case, I’ll be using Adobe Lightroom because I find it easy to adjust settings and color correct the images. If you are into presets, you can easily apply it to your photos and adjust it to your liking.

Under the cosmos. #astrophotography #milkyway #camping

A post shared by Paolo Imbag 🇵🇭 (@paoloimbag) on

The main variables I adjust when editing a milky way shot is just the basic stuff:

  • White balance
  • Exposure
  • Contrast
  • HSL (Hue Saturation Luminance)
  • Clarity
  • Blacks & Whites
  • Highlights & Shadows

Once I am satisfied with my adjustments, I will apply my final touches and share it on the internet. 😛

Step 3.1: Creating a Timelapse Video

Assuming that you have post process every photo in your timelapse, you can now open your video editing software (in my case, it’s Adobe Premiere Pro), and import the first photo. Don’t forget to import it as an image sequence so your software knows that it is a video clip/timelapse. By default, it is set to 25fps.

Apply all the necessary adjustments you need and then export your clip at 24fps. 🙂

Step 3.2: Stacking Your Images (Star Trails)

This one is super easy. You just have to download a star stacker app caller StarStax, then drag and drop your timelapse sequence to the app, then execute the process. Once it’s done processing your star trail, you can now export it to your computer and share it to your friends.

star stax milky way star trails
star stax milky way star trails

Download the StarStax App here.


So there you have it! If ever you are confused with the steps I listed above, or have any question regarding astrophotography, don’t hesitate to message me on facebook. 🙂

Follow me on instagram: @paoloimbag and @itineraryph

 

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