iPhone Pictures of the Moon: 10 Expert Tips for Great Photos

iPhone Pictures of the Moon: 10 Expert Tips for Great Photos

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The beautiful moon on the dark sky.
The moon is considered as one of the most enticing photography subject.

Taking pictures of the moon can be challenging given how small and bright it is in the dark sky which confuses the camera. More often than not, taking chances to photograph the moon results in a grainy sky, poorly focused image, or too bright moon. 

But, why does this happen? Well, unlike your eyes, your iPhone’s camera just can’t handle the amount of light coming from the moon. Moreover, your iPhone’s camera is not built to take images of subjects that are miles and miles away. 

However, it is not impossible for you to capture beautiful images of the moon using your iPhone as long as you know how to do it right. With a few simple tricks, you can actually have a stunning image of the moon. Take a look at the following tips on how you can capture great moon photos.

1. Shoot the moon when it is low.

Nature, forest, and moon landscape at night.
The easiest way to capture the moon is by doing it just when about it is rising or setting.

Shooting someone on its downtime isn’t advised but shooting the moon just when it is still low is definitely recommended. Doing so will give you the chance to capture its immense size plus the moon isn’t that bright yet so your iPhone’s camera sensors won’t be overloaded. Ideally, you should take images of the moon just when it is about to go up or to go down. 

2. Try magnifying the moon.

Telescopic view of the moon.
Using a telescope or a binocular could help you get a closer image of the moon.

You may not be aware of this, but your iPhone’s camera actually comes with a wide-angle lens. A wide-angle lens is beneficial in different types of photography but not with moon photography. This is because the lens will just make the moon look even smaller than its original size. What you can do in situations like this is to use a small telescope or binoculars to get a larger image of the moon. 

To do this, simply line up your iPhone camera into the eyepiece of the telescope or binoculars that you are using. But doing so is not that easy at all. If you have the budget and you plan to take moon images often, investing in a binocular or telescope adaptor is certainly a good idea to keep your iPhone aligned or in place.

3. Turn down the ISO feature.

Italy Sicily reflection of a moon
The moon is already too bright, thus reducing the ISO of your iPhone camera is a must.

The main reason why taking images of the moon is not that easy is that the moon is very bright. It illuminates too much light against the darkness of the sky and the night which causes your iPhone’s camera or any other camera to get confused, thus the moon is exposed too much. An overexposed moon means that you will get a blurry, grainy, and unfocused image of the moon. 

To fix this problem, try reducing the ISO of your iPhone’s camera. ISO refers to the sensitivity of the image sensor of your iPhone’s camera. When the ISO of your iPhone’s camera is very high, the result will be a bright and grainy image of the moon. The best thing to do here is to reduce the ISO by sliding your finger downwards on the left-hand side of the camera screen. Ideally, your ISO level when photographing the moon should just be around 25-64.

4. Use the Night Mode.

Night more feature of an iPhone
Using the night mode feature of your iPhone is a great help when trying to capture the moon on a dark night.

If your iPhone belongs to one of the latest models, using the Night Mode feature could help you get through the process of taking images of the moon. Using the Night Mode feature enables you to capture better low light images since it uses in-camera software to produce a sharp and grain-free photo of the moon with amazing color and detail. 

To be more particular, the Night Mode camera feature of iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max has the capacity to capture multiple images in just a few seconds wherein these images are combined together to come up with one high-quality image. 

If you are wondering how you can activate the Night Mode feature, well, it automatically turns on whenever your camera senses that you are shooting in a low light area. You just have to make sure that you are using either the 1x Wide lens or the 2x Telephoto lens since the Night Mode feature won’t turn on or work with other lenses.

To know if the Night Mode feature is activated, it’s icon should be color yellow. 

5. Shoot the moon with the night sky.

View of the moon from San Francisco.
Shooting the moon with the night sky is way easier than focusing on the moon alone.

Image exposure is one of the main challenges of moon photography. This is because the size of the moon on the camera’s field of view is so small that the exposure setting of the camera won’t just adjust to expose the moon properly.

Luckily, you can adjust the exposure manually by tapping the area to which the moon is located. A yellow box with adjustment levels on its ride side will appear. Slide your finger up or down to adjust the exposure. You can also use the AF Lock before adjusting the exposure to focus better on the moon. 

6. Keep your camera steady.

Man shooting the sky with a tripod holding his camera
Using a tripod helps you stabilize your camera to avoid camera shake.

Using a tripod while shooting the moon is definitely a must to help reduce camera shake or vibration. Since you are photographing in the dark, you will need a slower shutter speed which means that you will have to spend a longer than usual time shooting an image. But, the thing is, keeping your camera still or free from any movement and vibration would be difficult. That is why investing in a good quality tripod is worth it in most situations. 

If you do not have a tripod or you do not have the budget to buy one right away, what you can do to keep your camera steady is to lean against something while shooting or better yet, shoot the moon in a lying position and put something to support your both hands.

The point here is you have to keep your camera as steady as possible to get better images of the moon which is impossible even with just a small camera shake.

7. Turn off the flash.

iPhone camera flash
Turning on the camera flash of your iPhone will just make things even brighter.

Using the camera flash will make the camera assume that you are shooting somewhere dark thus, more light will be allowed to pass through the lens by raising the ISO and slowing down the shutter speed. When the ISO level is raised, the camera’s sensors will be more sensitive which results in an overexposed image of the moon. 

To turn off your iPhone’s camera flash, simply click on the flash icon located at the upper right side of your camera screen then choose the off option. You will know that your flash is turned off if there is a slash on the flash icon on your screen. 

8. Choose the right environment.

Lake, Moon, and Sky
sometimes, focusing on the moon only isn’t ideal, but you have to include the environment too.

In as much as you can edit your moon images afterward, keeping your images as natural as possible is much better. This can be achieved by choosing the right environment where you are going to shoot. For example, your area is so cloudy today that you could barely see the moon which makes driving somewhere else to photograph the moon is definitely a good idea. 

Another good point that you should always consider is that focusing on the moon alone gives compensates to the beauty of the surrounding environment. The best thing to do here is to take a separate image of the moon and the surrounding then merge them together. 

9. Find out the phase and pick the right date.

Blood moon lunar eclipse sequence.
Knowing the phase of the moon on a certain date will help you plan ahead on what you are going to do.

Knowing where and when the moon will be most visible in the sky will help you think ahead of time of the angles to which you will take the images. There are a lot of websites available to which you can check the phases of the moon during a certain date so that you can plan ahead. Planning ahead is as important as knowing the area on which the moon will be most visible to help you get a clearer and better-looking image of the moon. 

The most stunning phase of the moon is the full moon but unluckily, this phase could also be the most boring one. Why? Simply because of how illuminated the full moon is which gives you a low-contrast white disc image. If you really want to capture a full moon, do it exactly a day before the actual full moon. 

10. Post-process the images you have taken.

Man taking a look at the images he have captured.
Post-processing is a very important part of photography that should not be overlooked.

Post-processing the images of the moon that you have taken is very important of any type of photography. Perhaps, there might be lapses on the image you have taken or in simpler terms, the image is not yet perfect, post-processing it, like doing some edits, applying filters, adjusting the light, color, contrast, and so much more could help a lot. 

There are plenty of apps that you can use to do the post-processing. There are simple ones in as there are complicated apps too. It’s all up to you. All you have to do is to make sure that everything you do in the post processing goes well with the image of the moon that you have taken. 

Conclusion

Of all types of photography, moon photography is indeed one of the hardest things ever. It takes a lot of planning, the right timing, and the right tools to do so. One single mistake could lead everything into a disaster. But at the end of the day, what matters is that you have enjoyed shooting and the great image that you have taken is a bonus.

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