There’s something incredibly fascinating about capturing images of the night sky. It might seem like one of the trickiest genres of photography; however, the rewards are immense. Astrophotography might be a tricky subject, but the images have the potential to be magical.
In terms of difficulty, it seems more challenging when you’re just starting to learn the basics. However, once you hit your stride, it all comes naturally. There a few essential things that you need to keep in mind when starting astrophotography. You’ll only be able to engage in astrophotography in the dark and at night. That means setting up the image and adjusting the composition is different from just regularly taking pictures. Moreover, getting the right equipment is also important when looking to get the most out of your astrophotography adventures.
One of the best cameras for those looking to get their start in astrophotography is the Nikon D5100. The D5100 features a 16.2MP CMOS sensor that produces images of incredible quality. Thanks to the 11 AF point system that features 3D tracking, focusing on the subject is easier than ever before. The ISO range that extends from 100-6400 provides enough flexibility to improve the control over night time photography.
The size is also compact, meaning that you can hold the camera in place for more extended periods. Unlike the D5000, the D5100 has a body type that’s more akin to the D3100. It fits better in the hands and makes taking pictures much easier
A crucial aspect that separates astrophotography from other avenues is the amount of planning that goes into the process. You can’t just go to any single location and hope for the best to get the ideal images. A lot of important research needs to go into the composition of astrophotography images. Photographers need to consider the location they’ll be shooting as light pollution is one of the main enemies of night sky photography.
To take compelling photographs, you need to find a far away location from any external lighting. The placement of the Milky Way and other constellations are also essential to consider when taking these photos. Instead of just leave everything to the last minute, to get the most out of your astrophotography endeavors, make sure that you scout the areas beforehand. If you go early, you’ll manage to easily spot the milky way and the location of other stars you’re looking to capture.
The Nikon D5100 has several diverse settings that help it excel during astrophotography situations. It easily fits on top of multiple tripods available on the market and offers brilliant ISO performance. You’re going to need to invest in a tripod if you want to get the best results from astrophotography. As you’re going to be shooting at night, the shutter speed will be much slower to allow enough light to enter the frame. Additionally, another tip to remember is that one should focus on shooting a single frame.
Get Comfortable With Bulb Mode
When you’re engaging in astrophotography, one of the most critical aspects is maintaining a long shutter speed. The longer the shutter speed, the more light will enter the image. Taking pictures at night will mean that you’ll need to have a shutter speed of at least 10 seconds. The Nikon D5100 allows photographers to take photos with a maximum shutter speed of 30 seconds. These settings will help create the perfect image composition for night time photos.
Bulb mode also gives photographers the option to retain their shutter speed for longer than 30 seconds. No matter how dark it is, the Nikon D5100 is capable of producing stunning images at night. When you’re using the bulb mode, the camera will start taking the picture when you press down, but it’ll complete the image when you release the button. Now we’re not suggesting that you should keep your finger on the button while using bulb mode. Only if you have the most stable hands in the world, you can take a picture without shaking the camera a bit. You’ll need to use a cable release to get the best results, and there are several options available on the market.
To activate bulb mode in the D5100, slide the shutter speed trigger until the screen displays “Bulb.” Once you’re in this mode, you’re good to snap away. A lot of the time, you won’t need to use bulb mode if you play around with the ISO. However, if you want to take pictures with minimal noise, bulb mode can be very useful.
Frame Pictures Well
One of the most important things when trying to capture the night sky is framing the image properly. If you don’t frame the shot correctly, it won’t have any sort of impact in the eyes of the viewer. To get the ideal reaction, you need to frame the subject in a manner that captures the viewer’s attention.
A handy tip to keep in mind when framing a subject is the rule of thirds. It’ll help you frame the subject in a manner that’s always pleasing to the eye. Essentially, the rule involves breaking any photo into thirds. The grid is both horizontal and vertical, resulting in nine equal parts. Once you have the grid, there are essentially four points where the lines intersect with one another. These points will serve as the points of interest, and it’s where you should ideally place the subject. The subject should never be in the middle of this grid, that’ll significantly take away from the appeal of the photo.
Once you get your Nikon D5100, be sure to turn on the rule of thirds grid overlay. It’ll make such a significant difference in the quality of your astrophotography. Another useful feature in the Nikon D5100 is the live view and the pop-out screen. Getting to see your image on the screen can help give a better eye to the framing. You can also turn on the rule of thirds grid for the live view mode, and the pop-out screen will help you look at different angles with the camera pointed upwards!
Practice, Practice, Practice
While we might be able to give you several tips to improve your photography, there’s no replacement for sheer practice. The more hours you put into a craft, the better you get. Once you start engaging in astrophotography regularly, with the aim to improve, you’ll start seeing results.
The amount of practice you put in is crucial because they’re always so many variables one needs to consider when taking pictures of the night sky. Anyone can take high-quality photos in the day thanks to the good lighting. However, at night you don’t have that luxury. It does allow you to be more creative.
Once you start getting into the rhythm of practicing regularly, you’ll begin to see why astrophotography is tricky and requires so much planning. Every night there’s going to different amounts of cloud cover in different spots. Certain stars are going to be visible will others are not. You’ll have to adjust to the different lighting environments and the subjects that are available to you on the go. It’s not an easy form of photography, but it is immensely rewarding. The more you practice, the more your skills will develop, and the more opportunities you’ll have to get creative with your images.
It’s a good thing that Nikon D5100 features a durable magnesium-alloy body that’s lightweight. You’re going to be getting a lot of use out of this camera if you’re thinking of tackling astrophotography. So, practice as much as you can and make sure you stick to the spots that produce the best pictures!
Use Low ISOs
Lastly, one of the most important things to keep in mind when taking images of the night sky is keeping a low ISO. While this might seem like an irrelevant tip to veteran photographers, it’s incredibly crucial for beginners. The ISO setting essentially adjusts the light sensitivity for a camera. Most beginner photographers will learn that they need to use high ISO values when they’re taking images in low light. However, using high ISO values for astrophotography will result in grainy pictures and look very low quality. The higher the ISO, the more noise enters the image.
What you want to do during astrophotography is keep a low ISO and crank down the shutter speed. It’ll help you get that signature look where it showcases the stars and clouds moving. The Nikon D5100 offers several noise reduction features that you can use while taking pictures at a high ISO. However, even with them on using high ISO values will cause issues. There will be certain nights where it’s so dark that you won’t be able to take images using the max 30-second shutter speed. Those are the nights that are ideal for astrophotography. Set the ISO to 100, turn on bulb mode, and enjoy the magic when you find the perfect shutter speed.
If you don’t want to engage in bulb mode, the Nikon D5100 does offer decent performance with the ISO. Just be sure that you don’t go above 800. Above 800, the ISO will add so much noise to the picture it’ll ruin the quality!