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Tips for astrophotography


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Hi alpha-morgan,

So glad you are going on your first Astro photography shoot, really exciting. There is nothing like going out and trying something new to get your imagination fired up. Shooting Astro is truly an inspiring experience. Glad you are asking about gear and tips. Aside from the photography tips, check on the weather as well so you can pack the right clothing, insect repellent, hydration etc.  In terms of gear and tips I would suggest checking out alpha universe web page as it has some great tips on shooting astro.  I did a quick look see and found two very interesting articles.  Recommend you peruse and note details.  There are so many settings to change its probably best I not write them all here, (will post the links below).  You can print or bookmark the pages. Of course don't wait to read the articles until you are on site as you may not have cell service at your shoot location.  Also note that it is good to have a light of some sort on location so you can see your surroundings, gear. However, don't use a regular flashlight as it will cause light pollution that may affect your shot or others shooting nearby.  You will need a red colored light in order to minimize the issue. Also note the article by Andrew Eggers "Camera Setup For Astro Photography"

The article shows some screen grabs from the menu of his Sony camera. This menu may or may not match the model camera you are using.  For instance we have a new improved menu style and layout on our newer cameras such as the alpha 7SM3, alpha 7M4 and alpha 1 cameras. Not to worry, I am sure you can still find the same items in your menu, but located perhaps on a different tab and page.  You could always get a little assistance by looking up the "Help Guide for your camera model by opening your browser and typing in Sony Support model of camera, (example Sony Support  ILCE-7M4). The 2nd article is by Stan Moniz "Photo Fundamentals: How To Get Sharp Stars With The 500 Rule For Astrophotography"

This article shows a simple formula for calculating the length of your exposure to insure a sharp star is reproduced, not blurred.  Note however the formula is based on a 35mm cameras.  Not sure which camera you are using. If it is a crop sensor camera like the a6400 or a6600 there are notes for adjusting the formula and calculations.

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Glenn has some great tips and resources in his reply. Definitely have a look at Stan Moniz's article on the 500 Rule ( It will get you making sharp astro images right out of the gate.

Personally, I bought the 24mm f/1.4 GM when it came out specifically for astro. 

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These are great tips that Glenn shared. I would also add that it's important to bring a sturdy tripod that won't easily move in the wind which will cause the photo to get blurry. Many tripods have a hook in the middle to add weight to make the tripod more stable. 

In general, it is best to set the camera to Manual Mode and shoot in the RAW image format. This will allow your camera to capture all of the available image data and allow for a lot more flexibility when editing. Next I would use either a remote shutter or set a shutter delay in camera. This will minimize any movement in the camera caused by physically pushing the shutter button. I also recommend setting the focus to Manual and enabling Focus Peaking and Focus Magnifier in your Sony camera settings. Under ‘Peaking Setting’, be sure to set your peaking level to High and peaking color to red. Focus Peaking and Focus Magnifier will allow you to manually focus your lens on the brightest star. You will want to adjust your focus ring until you see a ring of red around that star which will indicate that it is in focus. 

As Glenn mentioned, there is “the 500 rule” which is a calculation that is used to give you a useful exposure length to avoid star trails. The formula is: 500 / Crop-Factor x Focal Length = Ideal Shutter Speed. For example, if you are shooting on a crop sensor camera like the Sony a6500 and had a 16 mm lens, your calculation would be 500/ (1.5*16) = 21. This means that you can set your exposure length up to around 20 seconds before you will start to see star trails or blurring in the sky. If you are using a full frame lens like a Sony A7r IV, you would simply do 500/16mm = 31 or 30 second max exposure.

You will also want to set your aperture as wide as possible and I would recommend setting it to an f-number of f/4 or lower. I shoot on the Sony 16-35 mm G Master lens so I would set my lens aperture to f/2.8. Next, you will want to set your camera’s ISO which is your camera’s sensitivity to light. Setting the ISO too high will result in a lot of noise in the image so you will want to first prioritize your exposure time and aperture. ISO 1600 is often the sweet spot for cameras and you may have to adjust this higher or lower depending on the camera, lens, and amount of light in the scene. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Thank you worldpins for that amazing tip. I am beginner with cameras and an ardent Sony fan. I have a A6400 with 16-50 mm kit lens for wide-angle zoom lens. So, you think it will deliver a good result for Astro photography. I know it's the person and not the camera but, just curious. Do not have the budget yet for a G or GM lens yet. Also, it's not even been a year since I have started actual camera photography so, what would you recommend for upgrading in the future for the 16-50 mm lens. 




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You already received some great tips from the others! My tips are non-gear or settings related. I am still new at astrophotography, but I would like to share with you to be patient, have fun, and don't get discouraged. You can capture some awesome shots with your camera and lens! Just enjoy the experience and being under the stars.

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