Hey! So I’ve received a bunch of questions asking how I take my star photos, so I’ve decided to make a post about it.
Basically to get the stars to be vibrant and not washed out, as well as the Milky Way to stand out brightly, you need several factors. Firstly, gear is actually very important in night photography.
As for gear, a good DSLR body, one which is capable of a high ISO without noise is vital. I shoot on 2500-3200 ISO. As for a lens, one which can go super wide, both in focal and in f/stop is just as important. I use a Canon L 20-35mm f/2.8, shot at 25 seconds on f/2.8 at 20mm focal.
When setting up your shot, you want to use the rule of 500. This is basically a simple rule to stop your stars being blurry due to the Earths rotation. Simply divide 500/your focal length. For example, since I shoot at 20mm, I do 500/20 = 25 seconds.
To get your shot in focus, you have two options. One, use your liveview and zoom in 10X on the brightest star you can find. Turn your focus to manual, and fiddle with it till the star is sharp. You’d think it’d be full back, but its not on most lens. Generally infinity is slightly back from full turn. Your other option is to crank the ISO to its highest settings, and take a photo, readjust the focus, and repeat till it’s right.
When planning a photo, location is crucial. I use cleardarksky.com to check weather, cloud clover and astronomical viewing for that night at that specific location. As well, I use the Dark Sky app on my iPhone to see the extent of light pollution surrounding the area I am. Pointing your lens in a direction of a big town, even if its 50+km away will affect your shot.
Finally, know which part of the night sky you’re shooting. For British Columbia during most of the summer, the Milkyway rises due south at approx. 11pm for an average estimate. It varies, but for most purposes that’s all I plan my shot on.
Hope this helps!