Capturing the stars and the vastness of the Milky Way has to be one of the most rewarding elements of photography. However, it’s far from easy. It requires some fairly decent equipment, as well as plenty of know-how and patience. When you’re out on a Milky Way photography shoot, you’ll want to make things as spectacular as possible when framing your shot. Below are some top tips for getting some stunning solar system photographs.
Use a Flashlight to Highlight Key Areas
One of the best ways to frame your Milky Way photographs is to have a static landscape feature in the composition. Cliffs, mountains, treelines, and other naturally occurring topography often look fantastic. However, you may want to consider lighting specific areas with a flashlight. This ‘light painting’ technique allows you to illuminate and highlight features. The benefit of using a flashlight over other static lighting is that it prevents unwanted shadows being cast from other elements. They’re also easy to work with and move as necessary.
Use Light Height
Different lighting creates different effects, but one often underutilised type is to use high stands to create cool effects. If you have a telescopic light stand you can play around with different heights to see various effects. Of course, you don’t want to oversaturate your shot or detract from the amazing stars above you, so use them sparingly.
Watch Out For Shadows
We touched on this in an above point, but when you’re using light to illuminate specific landscape features, you have to be wary of the shadows you’re creating. This factor is especially relevant for when you’re using low-level lighting. Although some shadow is necessary to create a sense of depth, Milky Way photography should put the emphasis on the stars above in contrast to the ground below.
Balance Light Sources
There are not many strict rules for when you’re photographing the night sky. Furthermore, the lighting you choose for the landscape depends largely on the situation. However, you’ll want to try a range of angles and light sources to get the effect you’re looking for. Sometimes, highlighting a particular feature directly can result in a flat light or lead to parts of your composition being over-exposed. Try bouncing the light source off nearby scenery for a more even exposure with greater depth.
Milky Way photography isn’t a process that relies on guesswork. You need to think about how the final results are going to come out. To do this, you’ll want to choose specific elements you want to appear in the frame, and consider how the solar system will appear above them. Some of this process will be trial and error. However, there are some augmented reality apps that will overlay the Milky Way to where you’re looking, giving you the perfect opportunity to measure your shot.
Milky Way Photography Final Thoughts
These are just some suggestions to help you with the lighting and composition of your photographs. There are many other tips surround your lens and camera that need to be taken into account. We’ll cover these in a later post. Your primary goal is to capture the beauty of the night sky above some interesting and beautiful natural features.