How to Photograph the Milky Way


Hey, I’m Jim Harmer from ImprovePhotography.com and forgive me if my jaw is jittering a bit but it is about four o’clock in the
morning and it’s very very rural idaho in the mountains it is just cold and then as i was leaving the house
and just grabbed a jacket and it so happened to be my wife’s
jacket. doesn’t quite fit me. It’s a little bit chilly out here in Idaho but I want to show you how i made this
picture just moments ago of this gorgeous schoolhouse that’s only
about twenty feet from me but you can’t probably see it in the photo
because it’s so dark here uh… with the milky way rising behind
it and all the brilliant stars. when you get far enough away from the city the camera settings that I’m using today are I’m shooting at ISO 200 for most of these
shots that’s really really hide and frankly sometimes only to go higher
depending on what the the situation warrants sometimes I’ll need to go to ISO 4000 or even 6400. now we all know that’s gonna increase
the noise in the photo and that’s just a fact of the matter when you’re shooting
night photography there will be some noise you can’t get
away from it but we do our best to limit the amount
of noise and we’re doing that by using long
exposure noise reduction you’ll find that in the menu of your
DSLR if you have any DSLR that was made in the last five or six years they
will have the option canon nikon sony you name it. you’re going to the menu you find
long exposure noise reduction and he set it to “on” in what do you do is every time you take
a picture with a long exposure usually the only activator throughout
the two ten seconds to pinning on camera model is you’ll take a picture of if i have my
shutter speed of thirty seconds like it is right now all set it to all take a thirty second
picture and then the camera goes black for thirty seconds after the pictures done
taking and it’s what it’s doing is it’s taking a second secret picture
that you never actually see and it says this picture should
be black because the shutter was closed for the entire thing so if i see any light on the second
invisible picture it must be stray electrical signals on the imaging center
or heat buildup and that’s creating the noise so will reduce that noise from
the second picture from the first and then we get a much clearer picture
it’s really really neat technology uh… we have long exposure noise reduction activated and we have a thirty second exposure
with ISO thirty two hundred and in the last setting is f/2.8 uh… we would usually use a much higher
aperture like f/16 to shoot a landscape like this but we just have to gather more light
f/16 is not gonna cut it here so i’m shooting at f/2.8 just out of necessity with those settings I’ll go ahead and take the picture here and uh… the real trouble when you’re shooting at
night is to find focus you’ll notice my picture went right away
but if you were to just setup here you’d find that it wouldn’t work because you’re camera needs a little bit
of contrast to be able to to find focus so i was fortunate that
there’s a bar in a way out there that has a light on and i could just turn my camera to focus right on that
light and then i locked to the focus you can simply lock the focus by reaching up
on your lens where it goes from autofocus to manual and just flip it to make
sure it won’t change while you’re taking all your pictures all night and we want to be focused to infinity
and i know that barn ya know looks like it’s a mile out there so it’s going to be at infinity which means as far out as your lens can
focus and so i know that the stars are going to be in perfect focus because I’m focused to infinity if you don’t have the benefit of a a light far away what you can do is just focus your lens
out as far as it will go all the way and then you wanna come back just a teeny little bit and that’s about
to infinity you can also look through the viewfinder and see if you can get
those stars looking about sharp but it is difficult to do by hand so we focus there and then we’ll just a
take our photos with that same focus when i will do is all turn-on you know maybe
this slider a cellphone might and shutting down this barn before i
believe and take one picture uh… focused on the barn so that i can have a sharp the sharks shot of that and then all mass this sharp barn and
the lights of the sky together that’s really the only way to do it because you
can’t get a high enough aperture and if you are both insure and focus
your gonna have to use a little bit of photoshop to get them together so that’s my process you’ll notice
there’s a little bit orange at the bottom of the photos on taking
the fifth city thirty miles that way and uh… and it still shows up just a little below light and and i really like that high i think it kinda adds to the photo
as well so this is my shop and uh… rural idaho
i hope you enjoyed learning a little bit about landscape photography and remember i
froze my butt off at four o’clock in the morning in rural idaho for you so I hope you enjoyed this tutorial i’d ask you if you would uh… if you’re
watching this on youtube to hit the thumbs up button and subscribe
to it so we can get more videos to you

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100 thoughts on “How to Photograph the Milky Way

  1. I love astronomy but I have no knowledge of photography. I'd love to take a picture like this but my camera is the new Cannon Eos I think? Do I need a better camera?

  2. When i shoot 30 seconds the stars make a trail behind them because the earth moves in that time i think. how can i avoid that. 

  3. thanks for sharing!, have you compared the results between native NR (as set in the camera) with the NR you obtain shooting a blind shoot and then using software to "subtract" the noise? 

  4. Hi,thanks for a great clip!  A question; if I want to get in more foreground,ie rocks or cliffs at a beach what is best way to do that?

  5. I know you're suppose to take the pictures far away from concentration of light sources. But that option is not available to me right now. Will some sort of a light pollution filter be helpful?

  6. Thanks for the great tutorial!!  I'm new to manual mode and wondering what the settings should be for metering mode, focus area & white balance?

  7. Thanks that was a really good video.  I have watched dozens of these and you are the first to talk about the Long Exposure Noise Reduction.  I learned something new and helpful.

  8. Great video, thanks for the help! Heading off on a trip to the Sahara desert next week and hoping to catch the milky way and the sand dunes together! 

  9. Guess what I am doing tonight. Milky Way shoots booyahh!!. By the way I think using a remote will work even better. I am going to try locking it and boost the A to 20. Hope the results will be good.

  10. Great video, thanks for the info! That barn is right outside of Idaho Falls, isn't it? I stopped to take pictures of of it last month but during the daytime 😉

  11. Hi and thanks for freezing your (!) off for us.

    I live in Dubai, so I will have to head out to the desert and try this out. I want to try to capture the stars moving, but then I would have to be out there for a couple of hours at least.

  12. Great video! I'm going on holiday next week and the area i'm visiting has very dark skies so this video was perfect! Just a quick question did you shine any light on the building or was that the product of a high ISO and long exposure? cheers!!

  13. Someone I know took a picture of the Milky Way recently and posted it up on FB. It was a valiant first effort. I've never shot the night sky before but advised this individual of how to setup in future attempts. What I told him is almost exactly the same as what I've just seen in this video…quite pleased! (difference was I suggested f4 or 5.6)

  14. Seeing the Milky Way is a rare sight for most of us now due to light pollution in urban areas. Good thing photography is here to somehow give a slice of Milky Way’s beauty to everyone. 

  15. thanks for getting out there in the cold for us….enjoyed your straight up video…love the casual presentation…but very well explanation…thank you! or should I say Aloha from Hawaiian State….take it easy and Happy New Year!

  16. Hey Jim, thanks for the great video. I was wondering if you had any advice for me when it comes to which camera to buy, and what lenses I should get with that. In short I want to be able to shoot video stockfootages in a fairly good quality, but I also want to do photos like the one in this tutorial. 

    What I've almost landed on is the Canon 70D, but also considered the Nikon D7100. What I don't know though is what lenses to get. I want something that has the potential to get as beautiful pictures as the one you showed here, but I can't afford too much. I'd also like to add another lens, probably some 70mm-250mm or around that with good quality, but again not too expensive.

    Any suggestions? Thanks again for the video. 

  17. My milky pictures turn out a lot like yours, but I want more detail in my milky way like you see on all the famous milky way shots.  How do I get the insane amount of detail they do, instead of a simple aggregate of dotes?

  18. Subbed thanks for the great tutorial, would you mind sharing what your set up is, camera lens and tripod? I'm shooting with a Nikon D5300 and i aim to capture the milky way this summer do you think il have any problems getting results…
     

  19. Hi Jim, 

    I didn't find a comment section on your "Improve Photography" website. However, to answer your dilemma about when the Milky Way will be directly overhead there are numerous apps that can help you figure that out. Stellarium is a free download for your computer (it may or may not now be available on other devices) and my personal favorite as an astronomer is SkySafari which does cost a few dollars. Simply put in your coordinates to either app and then you can search for what time the center of the Milky Way (which is the brightest) will be at the highest point at that location by playing around -either dragging the sky or moving time- with the application. You can also turn the moon on/off in these apps. So have fun and happy stargazing!

    PS. Since you are in the northern hemisphere you should be able to see the center of the milky way looking south during the summer.

  20. Hi Jim.  Thanks for the walk-through.  One thing I missed – what was your focal length?  Should I shoot a 35mm prime, a 50mm prime, a 12.5 fisheye, etc?    Did you pick f-2.8 because that's how low you could go?  I have a 50mm and 35mm that go to 1.4.  Do I want that?

  21. Swan Valley Idaho, I know that old place well, so cool to see a tutorial at a place I've been to!  I'm still shocked there is light pollution from that far away.  Good tips as well, thumbs up

  22. awesome tutorial. Im a beginner photographer and I wanted to start branching out to some night time long exposure pictures and you explained everything so well. Thank you sir!

  23. Hi, I was just wondering if when you took this photo, you could see the milky-way with the naked eye? As in was it as vivid as it turned out in the photo. Or was it only visible through the camera's photo? Thanks! 🙂

  24. The wider your lens the longer you can expose without seeing star trails. Search 'free star exposure calculator'.

  25. Can I get photos like this with a Nikon d60? My ISO only goes up to 1600 (or there's a Hi 1, not sure what that is). But my f/stop also only goes to 3.5.

  26. I don't intend to be rude, merely informative. The reason you camera goes "black" is because the cameras shutter is left open for the duration of the time. This meaning that the camera is constantly taking a picture over the period. It gathers all of the light over that time and your picture will turn out based on your cameras settings.

  27. Hi, great photo, and a good tutorial, but shutter at 30 seconds!? How come you don't get star trails? At 30 seconds they're visible enough that you can't hide them, but so short you can't make them a 'feature'. How do you work around that? Last time I went out I set my shutter at 20 seconds and STILL got smeared star trails from the rotation of the earth. How do you handle that?

  28. Great picture, we have been experimenting with long exposure, it is amazing what is there that you simply cannot see with the naked eye. Keep the vids coming, we are in awe at all detailed milky way shots.

  29. If you have a Canon DSLR, you can focus manually using "live view".. take a test shot to verify focus of the stars.

  30. This video is simple, and at a great pace. Very easy to follow. Didn't leave out any key elements. Thank you for an awesome video.

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