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How to Take Pictures of the Stars With a Digital Camera

written by: A. Jitesh•edited by: Amy Carson•updated: 2/26/2011

Learn the basics of how to take pictures of the stars with a digital camera in this complete yet concise article. Everything you wanted to know about taking pictures of stars in one easy to understand article!

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    The night sky can be truly mesmerizing in its beauty. The bright moon surrounded by a million twinkling stars. But try to capture the scene on your camera, and in all probability, you'll only get the moon, surrounded by a pitch black sky. Now, where did the stars disappear? Is my digital camera good enough to shoot stars? Yes, it is. And this article aims to teach you exactly that: how to take pictures of the stars with a digital camera.

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    Regular Camera or SLR?

    Pretty much both can be used to get good pictures of stars. An SLR of course is hard to beat for the quality it offers, but a decently good P&S which offers at least 15 seconds exposure time can just scrape through. Needless to say, a tripod is essential for such long exposures - having the right equipment for taking star pictures makes the task much simpler!

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    Avoid Light Pollution

    Starlight is very very faint as compared to moonlight or light from sources on earth - say a streetlight. Hence it is imperative that you completely cut off any stray light falling on your camera lens, as it will diminish the very faint starlight even further. The best case scenario would be to go out in a field, preferably on a new moon night, a bit away from the city, so completely eliminate light pollution.

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    Starry Night Photos

    To compose a photo having a million stars embedded on the night sky, try to keep a wide aperture, high ISO and a shutter speed not more than 8 seconds. Any slower shutter speed would cause visible blurring of the moon, which you may not want. Most SLRs today produce very usable results at up to ISO1600, and regular cameras up to ISO800. Use noise reduction in post-processing to remove excess camera noise, which will inevitably creep in at high ISOs.

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    Star Trails

    One of the most amazing techniques associated with taking pictures of stars is Star Trails. The concept of star trails is that all stars seem to move around the night sky, but at a pace too slow for our eye to make out. But if you have the camera on exposure long enough, the movement of the stars can be captured as beautiful circular lines, called Star Trails. The photos below show how breathtaking star trails can be. A handy composition tip for shooting star trails is to point your lens at the North Star (or the Pole Star/Polaris). This star is constant and never moves, while all other stars seem to revolve around this celestial axis.

    Read this article for a complete guide on shooting amazing star trail images using your digital camera.

    Images courtesy: emples, daitaSTrails , stillwellmike

    Polaris star trails 

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    Using a Telescope

    Till now, we've only used our camera lenses to see the stars. But attaching the camera to a telescope would open up a completely new world of astrophotography to us. We can capture the stars up close and personal, limited only by the power of our telescope. For this king of photography though, an SLR would be strongly recommended. This article describes how to take pictures of the stars with a digital camera attached to a telescope, in much detail.

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    Finally, as one may often find, no amount of preparation can really match up to the glory of dumb luck! To get that really excellent star photo, luck is as essential a component as technique and preparation are. Wishing you the best of luck to capture some really breath taking star pictures with your digital camera.

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    Source: Author's own experience

    Image Credits: emples, daita, stillwellmike