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Ultimate guide for photographing the Milky Way

If there is one discipline that fascinates most photographers, it is night photography, but in reality, it is not so easy to obtain good results, whether it is because of the equipment, climatic conditions or because we do not have the necessary practice. Today, we are going to present you 5 tips so that you can finally photograph the Milky Way as you always wanted.

If you put these tips into practice, you will eventually master this discipline, which will allow you to get beautiful photos of the Milky Way, like those in trade magazines, that will leave your mouth speechless.

4 tips to follow

Make no mistake: to photograph the Milky Way, you need a good camera. The better the quality of the device, the more likely you are to get beautiful photos of the stars; if you have a mid-range SLR camera and a very bright lens, this will be sufficient. Now we are going to see the ideal settings for successfully photographing the Milky Way.

1. Work in manual mode

Although it is believed otherwise, working with the manual mode of your cameras is not difficult, it even helps you learn more about the possibilities and limitations of your camera. When you get used to working in this mode and having complete control over the parameters that allow you to get a good exposure, you can hardly go back.

2. Select the natural focus to photograph the Milky Way.

Autofocus is perfect for many photographic disciplines, but night photography is not one of them. And if you think about it a bit, you’ll see that it makes sense. It’s hard for the camera to find a fulcrum for its focus and that’s why it won’t be able to focus exactly where we want it to be, which in this case for the Milky Way.

Some lenses, such as DZOFilm lenses, have an inscription on the ring with the hyperfocal distance ; but if your lens does not have one, you can try to find your own benchmark using a particular diaphragm opening during the day, so that you are sure that this is the hyperfocal distance that you will want to work with at night.

Tips for focusing at night

Another popular option among specialists for photographing the Milky Way is to use a lamp. You will need to illuminate about 30 meters in front of you with the lamp, so that the camera finds a focus area automatically, then change the option on the ring to manual focus, being very careful not to move the lens. ‘equipment ; if you are working with an Irix lens, you will only have to turn the focus lock ring. You can also illuminate an object located at the hyperfocal distance of your choice, then focus. However, to apply this technique you will need to be able to rely on someone to help you hold the light while you prepare to focus, otherwise it will be a bit tricky.

3. Work with maximum diaphragm openings

As you probably already know, the aperture of the diaphragm is a value that regulates the entry of light into the sensor of your camera. If you start from this base, you have to keep in mind that when photographing the Milky Way, it is normal to find yourself in complete darkness. To get more light on your camera’s sensor and thus obtain details that will not go unnoticed, you will have to opt for the maximum aperture provided by the lens, either f / 1.6 or f / 2.4.

Use the maximum aperture of the lens to successfully capture most of the stars and details of the sky, for a pectacular shot.

4. Use slow shutter speeds to photograph the Milky Way

When you adjust this setting, you will need to take several factors into account. In the first place, you cannot use excessively low shutter speeds because even if its movement is imperceptible, the Earth is moving and your results would be similar to circumpolar photos, on which the stars leave a trail.

Another factor to take into account: your camera’s sensor. You don’t have to use the same shutter speed for a Full Frame as for an APS-C. Using a particular focal length will vary the shutter speed you need to use.

The rule of 500

This table is the result of this formula, the formula to find the perfect shutter speed according to the focal length used and the sensor of your camera; using one formula or another will depend on what you want to do next with your photo. Round off the values ​​after you apply the formula. If later you want to print your photos, you will need to use a formula of 500 or 400 as this is the safest way to avoid noise on the images. If you just want to get good photos, it is recommended that you use the formula of 600 because although noise may appear in the image, it will barely be seen.

If we are talking about a Full Frame sensor, it will be necessary to use this:

400, 500 or 600 / focal length = exposure time

If we are talking about a Nikon APS-C sensor, it will be necessary to use this:

400, 500 or 600 / (focal length x1.5) = exposure time

If we are talking about a Canon APS-C sensor, we will have to use this:

400, 500 or 600 / (focal length x1.6) = exposure time

According to this formula, the focal length you will use to photograph the Milky Way will also influence the shutter speed you will use.

The best thing to do, in this case, is to test the results obtained with this formula and then to make the corresponding variations.