With Astrophotography becoming more and more popular over the last five years or so, we have noticed a spike in the number of people reaching out and asking questions based around things like “Can you photograph the milky way with a full moon?“. Due to seeing more and more people reaching out and asking questions like this with there not being any sign of the popularity of Astrophotography starting to decline, we have decided to publish this article to help as many of our readers as possible.
Our hope is that we will be able to help you get the best photographs possible of the milky way when there is a full moon but if you are reading this article, you probably already know that this can definitely be problematic. Although you can technically photograph the milky way when there is a full moon and pick up all of the brighter stellar objects, the dimmer objects that most people would consider to be the actual milky way will often shot show up in your photograph.
Thankfully though, there are a number of tips and tricks that you are able to implement to try and improve the image quality that you are able to capture when out on your sessions. Depending on your location and your equipment, some of these may not be applicable to you but they are definitely worth considering as they can drastically improve your photographs of the milky way when there is a full moon.
Avoid The Moon
We know that this one sounds obvious but we have lost count of the number of beginner photographers who all make this exact same mistake. They check a website or app that tracks the phase of the moon, see that it is a full moon and then write off their chances of capturing a photograph of the milky way right away. Depending on the month and your location, this can essentially write off around twenty days each month!
Just because a full moon is schedule for that particular night, there are often times when you are able to get out and minimise the effects of the glow of the moon. This is usually an hour or so before the moon rises and a few hours after it sets before the moon comes up. This is going to depend on the time of year and your location but the majority of decent astrophotography apps and websites will report when moon light will be minimal for that particular night.
The Location Of The Moon
This is another very common mistake that we see from beginner and even some intermediate level astrophotographers. They see that there will be a full moon that night and instantly give up on any hope of capturing the milky way. Again, all decent astrophotography apps and websites will also give an idea of the location of the moon for your location on earth as well as how long the moon may affect your lighting conditions.
If the moon is directly between earth and the milky way then you are pretty much bang out of luck. That said though, if it is on the outer edges for your location, if the conditions we outline below are all lined up and taken care of, you can often still get decent photographs of the milky way. That said though, the dimmer objects may not show up depending on the camera accessories that you are using.
Is There Light Pollution In The Area
This is another common mistake that we see people trying to capture photographs of the milky way make time and time again. So many people try to capture their photographs from their yard or a local park or other open area in their home town or city. The light pollution that modern towns and cities kick out just add to the problems of having a full moon making capturing your photographs of the milky way a nightmare.
Although there are some specific camera accessories on the market such as the K&F Concept Nano Night Filter that have been specifically designed to help reduce the effect of light pollution on your photographs, if there is a large amount of light pollution in your area, they may not help at all.
That said though, the K&F Concept Nano Night Filter does have an excellent reputation amongst photographers so it might be worth checking out if your local town or city does not suffer from much light pollution. We feel that for the vast majority of our readers, a better option will be to try and plan a trip to a more suitable location with less light pollution though and that brings us onto our next point.
Location Location Location
If you live in an extremely arid location, ideally one that has a high altitude you will be able to capture much better photographs of the milky way during a full moon than other locations. This is due to the atmosphere being significantly thinner in these locations reducing the effects of the light pollution from a full moon. This ensures that the dimmer objects in the milky way are easier to capture for your photography session and increase the chances of your camera sensor detecting them.
Unfortunately though, the majority of people usually live in a more humid location that can often have a turbulent sky. If possible, try to plan a trip for your photography session to a more optimal, arid, high altitude location to increase the chances of you being able to capture better photographs with a full moon when using the milky way as your main subject.
There are various forums, social media groups, and sub-Reddits dedicated to astrophotography that will be able to offer you more specific advice to favourable locations that are near you. Some of the more popular astrophotography websites also have lists of these optimal places where you can check the ones closes to you as well as see the photographs other photographers have been able to capture from them.
How Much Moisture Is In The Air
Next up, we have the amount of moisture in the air and unfortunately, this one can be a little harder to track as weather predictions can be wrong and there are many other sources of water vapor outside of just the weather too. That said though, checking the weather for your local area is able to give you a good idea of the level of clouds or rain that you can expect.
You need to track this due to the moisture in the air being able to refract the light from the moon and disperse it over a wider area making moisture in the air a nightmare on a full moon. Depending on the conditions and the location of the moon, a high amount of moisture can almost make it look like dawn all night and pretty much rule out any chances of you even seeing the milky way, never mind being able to photograph it.
How Much Particulate Matter Is In The Air
Just like the amount of moisture in the air, particulate matter such as dust, pollen, and general pollution can have a similar affect. Rather than actually refracting the light from the full moon though, it generally reflects it usually making the light a little brighter but over a smaller area. As you can probably guess, this can cause additional problems and pretty much rules out your chances of being able to capture photographs of the milky way during a full moon.
Unfortunately, tracking particulate matter in the air in your local area is even harder than tracking the amount of moisture in the air making it very hard to predict. If you do live in an area that dos have high amounts of pollen or dust in the air then it is probably going to be a better idea for you to plan your milky way photography session in another location with optimal conditions and then travel there to capture your photographs.
That brings out article going over if you are able to capture photographs of the milky way during a full moon to a close. As we touched on back at the start of the article, this is generally a very difficult task and although it is possible, very few people live in optimal locations that have ideal locations for excellent image quality. This is why so many people involved in astrophotography who want to capture photographs of the moon try to work around the phases of the moon as best they can.