Did you ever wanted to take photos of the stars? It is not that hard to do! It just requires a little practice. My first few attempts to take photos of the Milky Way or doing a star trail, failed.
There are a few thing that you should know before starting. In General you should, before go out to take the photo, investigate the location during daytime. Depending on the location, it can be very dangerous not knowing where you go. Only get there when you have a clear sky. Otherwise you will have a cloud trail and not a star trail photo.
Also be familiar with the moon cycle. Moon has bright light and sometimes that is not wanted in the photo!
When you want to take night photographs, you need to choose a location where it is pitch black. Usually I search for “Stellarium” on the web to be sure to hot one of the darkest areas in the neighborhoods.
For sure you will need a tripod. The exposure time will be between 15 and 30 seconds to take photos of the stars. I cannot really give you an exact time because this is different from camera to camera. The location also pretty much determines about the shutter speed.
A remote shutter release is also mandatory because the slightest move can ruin your picture.
Wide Angle Lens
There is no other option to take nice photos of the stars than putting a wide angle lens on your camera. Photos of the stars not made with a wide angle lens just look ugly. I did all my star photos using my Nikon system with the 14-24mm. Why? Because I can open up the aperture (low F-Stop) there more than with my Sony system. I can only open it up to F4.0.
If you do not know the directions, download a compass to your cell phone. If you want to take a star trail photo in the northern hemisphere, you have to point north. Of course in the southern hemisphere it is south.
I always carry a flashlight so I can see where I walk. It will also become handy when setting up the camera. Some photographers use it to light up the area in the foreground.
The camera settings
That is the tricky part. And here you got to find your own settings for your camera system. I will advise you how my settings were. I put the camera into M-Mode. In this mode I am responsible for the Aperture and the shutter speed.
Sometimes the camera has trouble to focus because it is pitch black out there. I turn the focus ring to infinite and then slightly back. Usually I take a few test shots and look zoomed in at the display for the focusing before “go live”.
The shutter speed needs to be as high as possible. But not more than 30 seconds. More than 30 seconds will make the stars moving and they start getting blurry.
For the star trail, I will keep my settings and add interval timer to the camera settings. Later I will use Adobe Photoshop to create the final image.
I open up the aperture as much as I could (lowest F-Stop number). On my Nikon D750 with its 14-24mm lens this is F2.8.
Increase the ISO as much as needed. My ISO settings were at 1600. It will be a little blurry but increasing the ISO makes the stars to pop!
It is really best to play around with the settings because every camera and the location is slightly different. My general settings are:
Shutter speed: 15-30 sec
Aperture: Lowest, mine at 2.8
ISO: As high as possible, mine at 1600
Just keep practicing and once you know your camera good enough, you will get the perfect shot!