Capturing photographs of the moon is becoming more and more popular amongst photographers and we are seeing more and more people reaching out each month with different questions on how they are able to capture the best image quality possible with their equipment. Unfortunately, camera accessories for capturing optimal photographs of the moon in all of its glory can be expensive and many people usually opt to invest in more versatile camera lenses that they are able to use in multiple niches rather than the super zoom lenses ideal for moon photography.
Thankfully though, there are a number of different things that you are able to use to your advantage to better capture photographs of the moon even if you don’t have the optimal camera accessories. As we have noticed a large number of people reaching out for advice on moon photography with 18-55mm lens that are often added to camera bundles as kit lenses, we have decided to dedicate this article to this subject. Our hope is that we will be able to help as many of our readers as possible and be able to help you capture some excellent photographs with the moon in them in all of its glory.
Although the 18-55mm focal length is short for traditional photography of the moon, you can definitely capture some excellent photographs if your plan your session and implement the various tips and tricks below. There’s no need to implement all of our suggestions, just implementing a few into your moon photography sessions can drastically improve the image quality that you are able to capture of the moon but we would recommend that you start to use as many as possible.
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Use The Landscape To Your Advantage
As we mentioned above, the 18-55mm is far too short to be able to zoom right in onto the moon as that requires a specialist telephoto lens for optimal performance. That said though, the 18-55mm focal length is ideal for hybrid photographs that showcase the moon as a backdrop to a landscape image in the foreground as shown in the image above. Depending on your situation, you are usually able to use trees and other natural objects to your advantage when using this tip to help control the exposure of the moons light too.
If you think outside of the box then you can easily come up with a number of ideas that you can use as a foreground for your moon photography with a 18-55mm lens. If you are in an urban environment rather than the country then tall buildings or statues in public places can be an excellent alternative to trees. The best thing about using this technique to capture your photographs with the moon in them is that the moon is not the only object of the photograph so the other features are able to draw the eye to compensate for any issues with capturing the moon due to the lack of focal length.
Use The Twilight Exposure
Although this may sound like a basic tip for some of our readers, we know that a large number of the people who read out articles are new to photography and videography so they may not be using twilight exposure to their advantage. If you are able to time your photography session of the moon with your 18-55mm to either just after the sun goes down or just before it rises you are usually able to get a much better image quality than you would be able to get otherwise.
This is usually down to blue hues still being in the sky and offering you a decent contrast between the moon and the foreground for your photograph. This can help to prevent any problems with underexposure in your camera as there will still be a relatively large amount of light in the sky. This tip works extremely well when combined with the landscape foreground tip covered above and can definitely help to ensure you are getting some solid photographs of the moon with a 18-55mm lens mounted on your camera.
Play With Different Focal Lengths
The variable focal length of your 18-55mm lens allows you to try a few different things when capturing photographs of the moon so we would highly recommend that you play around with the focal lengths available to you. Using the wider focal lengths available for you usually works better for the two tips that we have shared above as they allow you to capture more of the landscape and sky in your photograph helping to improve the overall image.
On the flipside of this though, although the 55mm focal length is far from ideal for capturing a detailed, sharp photograph of the moon, it can actually capture some surprisingly good photographs. Again, when it comes to using a 18-55mm at the 55mm focal length to capture the photographs of the moon, you will want to try time your photography session for when the moon will be low in the sky in your local area.
This works to your advantage as you will be viewing the moon at a lower angle than when it is directly above you meaning that you are usually going to be looking at from a point of view where the earths atmosphere is thicker, especially if it has been a hot day. This causes the moon illusion where the moon will look closer to the earth then it actually is meaning that you are able to use your 55mm maximum focal length to get as close as possible without having to purchase an expensive telephoto lens.
Don’t Worry About Underexposure Warnings
Although the aperture of your lens will come into play for this one, many 18-55mm lenses will trigger an underexposure warning with some popular cameras but this should be ignored. This is just the cameras software trying to tell you that your image quality is not optimal but you already knew that due to using a relatively small focal range for capturing photographs of the moon. Depending on the camera body that you are using, you will often be able to turn this warning messages off helping to prevent the annoying popups during your session.
Optimise Your Camera Settings
This one is going to take a bunch of research on your part as different camera bodies will need different camera settings for the same image quality with the exact same 18-55mm camera lens. We almost always recommend that you keep your camera in manual mode when using these lenses for photographing the moon but almost everything else will need to be changed including the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture.
Try starting with ISO 200, 1/200 of a second, and an aperture of f/1.6 if possible and then adjust accordingly depending on what your lens and camera are able to offer you. This can take a surprising amount of time and effort though for moon photography with a 18-55mm lens as there are so many combinations. If possible, google the exact camera body and lens that you have and see if anyone else has put optimal settings or at least some settings that you can start with as it will save you a bunch of time.
Try Upgrade To A Decent Cheap Lens
Our final tip is actually based around dropping your 18-55mm or at least investing in a cheap 500mm lens as they are much cheaper than many people realise. Just make sure that the lens that you settle on will mount to your camera body and you should be good to go. You can pick up a decent entry level, first hand telephoto zoom lens for around $100 and you can often find second hand ones for as low as $50 depending on the lens mount on your camera body.