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Tips & Tricks

5 Quick Tips For Amazing Photos of the Milky Way

By Shivani Reddy on February 7th 2019

We teamed up with our good friends at B&H Photo & Video to bring your 5 tips for photographing incredible milky way photos! Watch the video below:

Tip #1: Use Apps To Locate The Milky Way Core

The very first thing you want to do is get an app that shows you how to find the Milky Way. Mobile apps like Sun Surveyor, PhotoPills, and The Photographer’s Ephemeris are three of the most popular, and they should have both paid and free or trial versions. These apps will tell you where the Milky Way Core will be, and when.

For example, right now it’s winter here in the northern hemisphere, so the Milky Way isn’t visible at night, so I’m planning my Milky Way photography adventures for the spring of next year right now.

Tip #2: Grab A Sturdy Tripod and a Fast Wide Angle Lens

Everybody likes to argue about which hot new camera body is the best for astro-landscape photography, but honestly, the two most important tools are a rock-solid tripod, and a fast, sharp lens. Focus on these two tools before anything else. Here are some of our tripod recommendations:

  • SLIK Lite AL-420S Tripod (B&H)
  • SLIK Sprint 150 Aluminum Tripod (B&H)
  • Manfrotto Befree Aluminum Tripod (B&H)
  • Slik PRO 340 QF AMT Tripod (B&H)
  • Manfrotto 190go! Aluminum M-Series Tripod (B&H)
  • MeFOTO GlobeTrotter Carbon Fiber Tripod (B&H)

Here are some of our favorite lenses for milky way photography.

Tip #3: Scout Your Location Before It Gets Dark

This one sounds basic but it’s very important, both for getting gorgeous photos and for your own safety! Stumbling around in the dark trying to find the right location, especially in the mountains or wilderness, is a very bad idea.

Tip #4: Shoot Your Foreground Before It Gets 100% Dark!

Before it gets totally dark, however, set up your shot, frame the scene, lock down your tripod, and shoot a few exposures of the foreground as blue hour goes by. Because later, especially if you don’t have a super-fast lens or a camera body with stellar high-ISO performance, it might get so pitch-dark that the image quality of your foreground will be terribly noisy and underexposed.

Tip #5: Remember the 500 Rule

The 500 rule is based on a simple concept- the earth’s rotation causes stars to move in the sky, so if your shutter speed is too long, you’ll get a star trail. Before the days of high-resolution digital cameras, you used to be able to just take the number 500, divide it by your focal length, (say, 20mm) and that would give you a number that is the shutter speed, in seconds, that you can shoot at. However, now that we have 30, 40, even 50-megapixel cameras this rule just doesn’t work as well. For starters, just throw away the number 500, and start with the number 250 instead.

You can learn more about photographing the milky way in our workshop here! Make sure to subscribe to their channel to see more of our collaborative content!

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Shivani wants to live in a world where laughter is the cure to pretty much everything. Since she can’t claim “Serial Bingewatcher” as an occupation, she’ll settle for wedding/portrait photographer at Lin and Jirsa & marketing coordinator here at SLR Lounge. For those rare moments when you won’t find a camera in her hand, she will be dancing, eating a donut, or most likely watching Seinfeld.

Follow her on Instagram: @shivalry_inc

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