How to Photograph a Meteor Shower

The Perseid meteor shower is expected to peak on Sunday and Monday nights, which means that this will be the best time tocatch a glimpse of a shooting star (or 20). More than 75 shooting stars are expected to fly by in an hour, which means that you can catch that glimpse not only with your own eyes, but also with your camera.

If you want to try your hand at capturing a few snapshots of a big event, here are some tips from NASA on how to make the magic happen:

Go at the right time

The “best” time to photograph a meteor shower is between midnight and 3 am. Forecasters believe that the rainfall will be at its peak at this time. You can certainly see some of the shower all night, but 12 to 3 am would be the best option.

Extinguish the light

It may seem obvious, but it is better to go somewhere to the countryside to see a shower than to stand on a rooftop in the middle of the city. City lights will make it harder to see passing meteors. It’s the same with the camera: if you’re using the LCD screen for framing and taking photos, lower the brightness on it so you can see fainter meteors passing by.

Have the right equipment

NASA recommends having both a tripod and a wide-angle lens to catch the shower. Meteor shower requires long exposure, so a tripod is a must to get a clear shot. Otherwise, movement, even if you are breathing, can turn a long exposure into a blurry mess. A wide-angle lens will help you capture more of the sky around you (and give you a better chance of capturing something passing through your field of view).

NASA also recommends using your camera’s built-in timer cable release for taking pictures for the same reason as a tripod, this will ensure that your movement does not shake the camera and spoil the image.

Use manual focus

Meteor shower is not the time for autofocus. Turn it off and instead set the camera focus to infinity. Take a few test shots of the stars to make sure you’re in focus and adjust the settings if necessary.

Calculate exposure

You can determine the maximum exposure time by dividing 500 by the length of your lens. The number you get is how long you can keep the shutter open before you see the star trails in your photos. If you want them, shoot for longer, if you prefer not to get them in the frame, use a faster shutter speed.

By trial and error

If this is your first time shooting a meteor shower, it will take a lot of trial and error. Go early and play around to see what works. If the image looks too dark, set a lower aperture value and a higher ISO value. Tweak them carefully (one at a time!) Until you find the perfect combination for your shooting situation.

And have fun! You will probably have a lot more failures than successes in the first stage, but the more you train, the better you will be, and the better your photos will be the next time there is another big event.


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