Tips on Taking Pictures of the Night Sky and Stars

Preparation is key for photographers like Liz Hajek when it comes to nighttime photography.

The south central Texas photographer typically begins her sessions with an understanding of the earth’s revolution, the moon cycles and a constellation map in hand.

“And don’t forget the outdoor basics — remember to pack some warm clothes,” she says. “If you are going alone, tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return and to check the weather forecast.”

More Prep Advice

Scout your location

 The hours leading up to sunset consist of scoping out unique formations, imagining the moon’s rising path and preparing a basecamp.

Hajek scouts her location in Colorado.

As the sun descends, the discovery continues. New locations and angles reveal themselves as the evening sky begins its transformative traverse across the landscape.

Know your camera settings

Any DSLR camera will work for shooting night sky photography.

You’ll want to shoot with a long shutter speed and a wide aperture, and a tripod is essential for holding a still shot.

Hajek at Davis Mountains State Park in West Texas (photo by Jack Dennis)

Be ready for the darkness 

Another component, perhaps the most important, is darkness.

Not just any type of night sky darkness, but the blackest-of-black kind you only find far away from the world’s oft-consuming light pollution near Fort Davis Mountains and the McDonald Observatory in west Texas.

New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah also have certified dark sky parks and locations for perfect nighttime photography.

Hajek also enjoys photography in places like Enchanted Rock, near Fredericksburg, Texas or around Taos, New Mexico.

Photography training on Enchanted Rock, Texas.

To preserve your night vision, use a red headlamp and turn your camera’s LCD display brightness down.

Know the rules

 Land management agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, tribal lands, as well as state and local agencies all have different rules and regulations.

From the top of the Enchanted Rock granite dome in Texas. (Photo courtesy of Liz Hajek)

Be sure to review the restrictions of any dark sky area you plan to photograph.

In some parks, using artificial light sources to light up landscapes, rock formations, or other park features is prohibited.

Even small amounts of stray light can affect wildlife or other visitors in the area.


Kodachrome Basin State Park in Utah by Prajit Ravindran



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  1. This group is a shade of their former selves.

    Wagman Observatory (they misspelled Observatory in one place that I saw) is owned by the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh (AAAP or 3AP). Alas, they have gone down hill as far as a Web Presence.

    Nevertheless, as an Adjunct to Astronomical Photography, it’s helpful to be around people with experience with various types of Telescopes, and there’s likely Photography Enthusiasts using Conventional Cameras as well. Look for Amateur Astronomy Groups within your city or area. Look for Star Parties, where Amateur Astronomers set-up equipment and allow the public to see through their Telescopes.

    The Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh also have a Mingo Park Observatory, so they one Observatory North of the City of Pittsburgh, one to the South.

    In addition, they staff the outside of the Allegheny Observatory for an Open House there once per year.

    Allegheny Observatory

    “Open house is held once a year it differs from the tour in that more of the building is opened to the public. Instead of having a tour guide, you follow a designated tour path around the building. Both of the main telescopes are outfitted for visual use and the members of the Amateur Astronomers Association of Pittsburgh set up additional telescopes on the front lawn. You must get tickets to this event and they are free of charge you may do so by calling the number listed above. Open house is a family night therefore the maximum group size is approximately six. The Open House event will return in the fall of 2023.”

    I realize that most that read this do not live in this area, but look for similar Astronomer Clubs, Functions; and if you have a Professional Observatory, look for Open House Events; in your area, you may meet others with an Interest in Astronomical Photography.

    Liked by 1 person

      • The Pittsburgh Allegheny Observatory has a 13″ Refractor (their original Telescope from 1861) and they have a 30″ Refractor (Refractor wise, 30″ is one of the largest in the world), and they have a Reflecting Telescope too.
        Fitz-Clark Refractor
        The Wagman Observatory has the the Brashear 11-Inch Refractor, “originally built by famed Pittsburgh optician and avid amateur astronomer John Brashear in 1910. The construction of the telescope was commissioned by Pittsburgh industrialists and patrons of science, Andrew Carnegie and William Thaw, to observe the 1910 appearance of Halley’s comet.”
        See the section on The Brashear 11-Inch Refractor at the Following Link (Scroll Way Down). It’s quite an impressive Telescope for a Amateur Observatory, but is easily overshadowed in performance by Modern Reflectors that are found in many Amateur Observatories.
        What we don’t have is Dark Skies, we deal what we have, and for me, Planet Observation is something I enjoy, and with Amateur Observatories North and South of Pittsburgh, a more auspicious view of the skies can be achieved. Venus and Jupiter can be seen in the Afternoon, on a clear day, obviously, but with the Sun High in the Sky, just not near them, talk about Light Pollution. And, you can see Venus Naked Eye, in the Afternoon, if you know when and when to look.
        Zooming in on JUPITER and SATURN in daylight! Nikon P1000. Planets visible during the day!
        Planets in DAYLIGHT !! How to see Jupiter in daytime through telescope | Celestron Astromaster 114eq

        Liked by 1 person

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