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Moon Photography - How to Take Great Moon Pictures with Foreground Images

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Taking a great moon picture where the moon is the only subject is relatively simple.  Taking a great moon picture where the moon is a background subject is a bit trickier.  However, with these photography tips you'll be able to take great pictures with the moon in the background.

1. Plan Your Depth of Field (DOF)

While it is simple to use a large aperture with a moon only photo, the resulting shallow depth of field can be a problem when including items in the foreground.  While no aperture will allow a depth of field large enough to put a subject here on Earth and the moon both in perfect focus, a small aperture (large F-stop) will help prevent the moon from being nothing more than a blurr of light.

Standing further away from your foreground subject will help compress the distance between the foreground subject and moon for the lens.  Yes, zoom lenses do usually result in a shallower depth of field but when working with such huge distances the quirk of zoom lenses that tends to flatten a scene becomes a plus.

2. Bracket Exposures

Because light values will be so different between the moon and your foreground subject it is best to bracket your exposures so that you can be sure to get the best possible combination.  I would suggest at least two series of 5 shots each.  For the first series, use the largest exposure compensation being set to -2/+2.  This means you'll take one shot at -2, one at -1, one at normal, one at +1, and one at +2.  For the second series, set the largest compensation at -1.5/+1.5.  This way your second series will have images shot at -1.5, -.5,normal, +.5, +1.5 (depending on your camera's design).

3. Choose Time of Shot Carefully

Much like with moon only photos, photos shot before complete dark are often the easiest to get right when there is a foreground subject. In addition to the change of light color with early morning and late evening, the intensity of the light changes. Just before dark, at civil twilight and later at nautical twilight (Definition at Naval Observatory Portal), light on Earth appears to intensify on objects that the sun still touches (such as mountain tops) because of the contrast between surrounding shadowed objects.  This is a great time to take moon photos that have foreground subjects because there is still some natural light but most objects are in shadow.  Lit cityscapes are also easily visible at this time.

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