Timiou Stavrou
Kimmeridge Bay Milky Way

What is astrophotography?

Astrophotography allows individuals to capture the night sky and celestial events such as meteor showers, shooting stars and planetary alignments. It’s often seen as one of the more technical forms of photography, due to the importance of balancing shutter speed, aperture and ISO perfectly, to get the correct exposure.

“Try to reach to the maximum output that your current equipment can produce. You probably can do more with the gear you have right now.”

—Carlos Fairbairn – Astrophotographer

Influential astrophotographers

We’ve listed a few of the very best UK astrophotographers making waves in the current astrophotography scene. Read more about their experiences and their words of wisdom for budding astrophotographers.

The History of astrophotography

It was in the 19th century that astrophotography was first used, to document the findings of the world’s leading astronomers.

John William Draper was one of the first to capture a high-quality image of the moon in 1840, and from there, the interest in astrophotography grew.

It was Andrew Ainslie Common who discovered that long exposure could reveal stars that were too faint to be seen by the human eye, creating amazing images of nebulas like never before. We still use this technique today – the longer the exposure, the more detail we are able to see in the image.

Developing the technology needed for astrophotography

Unobtrusive street photography probably makes up the majority of street photography you’ve seen. This is where the photographer does not disturb what is happening in the scene – the subjects don’t usually realise that a photograph has been taken of them. It’s a fantastic way to capture emotions and interactions between people.

Post-processing and editing techniques

Portrait style images get up close and personal with their subjects. Photographers will often approach their subject and ask to take a few pictures of them. This means the images can be directed and styled slightly, but will capture the uniqueness of the subject and their surroundings.

The future of astrophotography

Astrophotography will undoubtedly continue to develop as technology evolves. Cameras will become more advanced and telescopes will better serve astronomers and scientists studying our night sky.

We now have consumer ready DSLR cameras that can handle the long exposures needed for astrophotography, as well as lenses powerful enough to highlight the finer details.

This puts astrophotography firmly in the hands of consumers, allowing for further evolution of this highly technical art form.

The best lenses for astrophotography

What you need to consider when choosing a lens for your astrophotography, is how fast the lens is, as well as how wide.

A wide angle lens that is around F/2.8 will not only include more sky in the frame, but it will also ensure you are getting enough light to properly expose the image.

A few of the best lenses for astrophotography, as noted by both hobbyists and professionals alike, are:

Sigma 14mm f/1.8 Art

Rokinon 24mm f/1.4

Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 G ED

Canon EF-M 22mm f/2 STM

The best camera for astrophotography

There are a few different routes you can take when it comes to choosing the right astrophotography equipment. The most accessible way for photographers is to use a high-quality DSLR that performs in low-light conditions.

Canon and Nikon both do great budget-friendly DSLR cameras that can be used for astrophotography:

Nikon;  D7500, D810A, D5600.

Canon; 800D, 77D, 80D.

The best settings for astrophotography

Getting the settings right on your DSLR is half the battle when it comes to astrophotography. When setting ISO, shutter speed and aperture, try and keep to Manual mode, Manual focus, 1600-800 ISO, Bulb or 30 seconds.

These are the basic settings for getting started with astrophotography, but it’s always a good idea to play around with these settings once you reach your location.

Essential astrophotography equipment

One of the most important pieces of equipment you need when doing any sort of long exposure photography is a sturdy tripod.

After pressing the shutter button, you could be waiting for up to 60 minutes for the image to finish processing. It is imperative that you keep the camera perfectly still in this time, so as to not blur your photo.

Other pieces of equipment you may want to invest in are remote controls or app based controls, so you can press the shutter button without touching the camera or causing any movement.

You may want to grab a hood for your lens or a light filter, to help stop any light from bleeding in from the sides.

Key skills to become an astrophotographer

Here are some key skills and qualities needed for astrophotographers to succeed:

  • Patience – astrophotography can take a very long time to get just 1 great photo, so patience is imperative
  • Excellent technical knowledge – both in cameras and in post-processing
  • A passion for the outdoors – you’ll be spending a long time in nature in order to get your photos

Having these core skills and traits will allow you to create the foundations for becoming a successful astrophotographer. It’s one of the hardest photography niches to master, but the results are completely worth it.