Astrophotography 101: How to Shoot for the Stars

Are you ready to learn the ins and outs of astrophotography? Photography enthusiasts and even professional photographers usually take their cameras out during the daytime. It’s quite easy to get your shot just right with all that light to illuminate your subject and prevent noise or blurry pictures.

During nighttime, however, things get more complicated, and one might end up wrapping its head around all the camera settings and specialized equipment designed to help astrophotographers capture the treasure-holding night sky.

Our useful tips and tricks are just enough to get you on track on your journey towards mastering the art of astrophotography. Afterward, you’ll be shooting for the stars in no time. Literally. Don’t worry about your gear being too modest or your knowledge on the subject quite vague. The astounding world of astrophotography is open to anyone with a keen interest in the celestial bodies that shine through the deep sky.

man night sky astrophotography


Persistence and patience are keys to developing the skills needed to embrace astrophotography as an expert. Photographers specialized in capturing astronomical objects have spent hours under the mysterious dark sky until they got that one perfect first shot. You’ll get frustrated, and you’ll most likely experience obstacles like bad weather and camera breakdown, but in the end, astrophotography remains one of the most gratifying forms of photography.

What is Astrophotography?

Astrophotography is a term used in photography to name the process of taking pictures of astronomical objects. It can mean anything from stars and planes to nebulae and galaxies.

It’s quite an easy hobby to get into on a simple level, yet can become hard to master at a more advanced level. Astronomy enthusiasts tend to pick up astrophotography as a way to improve their stargazing session. Believe it or not, being skilled in some photography techniques actually allows for a better viewing of the night sky. It’s true – a good lens might just surpass that expensive telescope you’ve had your eye on.

The Principles of Astrophotography

stars astrophotography

Photography is about capturing photons, the light particles that form a picture. The more photons you get in your shot, the brighter your final image will be. When it comes to getting those photons on camera, the key players are exposure and ISO.

Exposure will dictate how light or dark your picture will end up being. Achieving just the right exposure can be tricky. You don’t want too little – because your photos will end up too dark, underexposed – and you definitely don’t want too much – because you can’t really fix an overexposed picture.

The amount of time you allow your camera to pick the photons defines exposure. Long exposure is vital for those keen on astrophotography because the camera will be able to pick up the finer details hidden to human eyes. However, long exposure images require a tripod. You need your camera to remain very still.

Moving on to ISO, it is basically the name given to the measurement of the camera’s sensitivity to light. You are probably familiar with the term because it can be manually adjusted even on point-and-shoots and some smartphones. Amateur photographers might think they have the setting under their control, but keep in mind that astrophotography is a difficult form of photography.

ISO settings are typically from 24 to 6,400, but can get higher. The numbers are in direct connection to your camera’s sensitivity to light. In simpler terms, the lower the number, the less sensitive it will get; and vice versa. As you would expect, in astrophotography, we use high ISO because the low light conditions outside are not in our favor. However, if the ISO is set too high, you’ll get that awful “noise” that will ruin your photo.

Astrophotography Equipment

milky way astrophotography

The beautiful thing about astrophotography is that it can be done with just about any camera, but adding a telescope to the process will work wonders to your advantage.

But if you’re looking to get excellent, professional photos of celestial bodies, be prepared to invest quite a large amount of money.

Think about the funny pictures of photographers literally buried under camera backpacks, “tank” lens, flashes, tripods, and what not. You will probably end up looking like one yourself. But what’s wrong with that? If acquiring astrophotography equipment will pave the way to your becoming a pro in the art of shooting the stars and enjoying the unique feeling fulfillment when you see your pictures on the computer’s screen, then take note.

Best Camera for Astrophotography

There are two types of cameras you can use for your astronomical shots. First, we have the dedicated Cooled Astronomical CCD Cameras. Then, we have the standard DSLR cameras, and chances are you already have a Digital SLR.

CCD cameras are made especially for scientific and imaging purposes, being cooled to reduce noise. They are typically used through a telescope, but you can buy adaptors and use camera lenses on it for wide angle shots. Choosing to go with a CCD camera rather than a DSLR is the best option because it produces higher quality images. It really is the best camera for astrophotography. However, they can get highly expensive.

DSLR Astrophotography

man with camera astrophotography

DSLRs offer great versatility thanks to the complete control you have over aperture, ISO, and shutter speeds. You can attach a DSLR camera to your main scope and take long exposure pictures of the deep sky. The removable lenses can be set aside to allow an adapter to hook up your camera directly to the main scope. This way, the telescope will act as the camera lens.

Snapshot cameras and webcams can also be used for astrophotography, as silly as it may sound. Needless to say, we do not recommend you take this option seriously. After all, you want your pictures to be flawless, whereas these devices just don’t work for longer exposures for night sky imaging.

The Importance of a Mount in Astrophotography

An accurate and steady mount is vital to your telescope. A good mount will get the telescope to match the rotation of the Earth, which will make a big difference, especially when taking pictures of faint galaxies. There are two types of telescope mountings: equatorial and non-equatorial.

An equatorial mount has one axis aligned parallel to that of the Earth’s rotation, pointing at the North celestial pole or at the South celestial pole. To compensate for the rotation of the Earth, both mount and telescope are moved in this axis. This is known as the polar axis.

The second axis is the declination axis, allowing the movement of the telescope at right angles to the first axis. Because of the circulation of the two axes, you can aim your telescope at any part of the night sky. Once you target on your subject, the axes lock down. Only the polar axis turns to find the object.

Non-equatorial mountings also have two axes that let you point the scope in any direction. The difference is they require movement in both axes.

Let’s talk figures. Cheaper mountings are available, but you might outgrow them quickly. A good mount will ease you of about $1,500, but it’s a long-term investment. An excellent mount will not go lower than $10,000.

Best Telescope for Astrophotography

skygazers with telescopes

It’s quite obvious you need a telescope if you take astrophotography seriously. The bigger the scope, the more it will bring to the table. However, one might find that a big refractor only works for big nebulae and galaxies and that a second smaller reflector is needed because it is more suitable for faint nebulae and smaller galaxies.

Here’s what a starter, small telescope can do for you: see the craters of the Moon, the rings of Saturn, the crescents of Venus, just to name of a few. A decent telescope will cost at least $300.

It’s hard to pinpoint the best telescope for astrophotography, but you might want to look into the following: Celestron EdgeHD 11, Celestron EdgeHD 8, Telescope Engineering Company 160FL, and Tele Vue NP101IS APO.

The Use of a Guidescope in Astrophotography

The guidescope will work with your telescope, mounted on top or side-by-side with it. It’s cheaper and smaller than your main scope. The device lets astrophotographers choose a guidestar up to a few degrees from the area being photographed.

Spice it up with an Autoguider for Astrophotography

The autoguider ensures that the mount stays focused on your subject, from a star to a star cluster. Just as your telescopes gets to have a guidescope, the latter will be fit with the autoguider. It will force your mount to fix onto a star or a galaxy and keep the position indefinitely.

The Field Flattener Polishes Your Photo

Field flatteners are dedicated lens for the telescope. The need for a field flattener comes as the refractor has an inherent issue in its curved lenses. You will notice that if you use a scope without field flattener lens, the objects located towards the edge of view appear elongated. This comatic aberration is corrected using a field flattener lens between the telescope focuser and your camera.

Astrophotography Software

ursa major astrophotography

Both CCD and DSLR astrophotography utilize a laptop or a PC/Mac. On your device of choice, you can then install the following useful astrophotography software:

1.DSLR Camera Control software

This type of software allows users to control their camera settings using the computer. With a single USB-2 cable, you can control all functions and also live-view your image on the computer.

2.Image Acquisition software

Image Acquisition Automation software helps you shoot many short exposures without having to waste precious time doing it manually. Instead, just program the software to get as many exposures of as many minutes, and with pauses of as many seconds as you wish. You can’t get it wrong once the process is automated for better precision.

3.Autoguiding software

Autoguiding software is a great tool to use to guide you when shooting long exposures. GuideDog, for example, uses your camera to autoguide the telescope for accurate guiding and following of the star.

4.Image calibration software

Image calibration software is designed to remove unwanted fixed signal and provide correction for signal modification. This way, the raw image will accurately represent the intensity of photons incident on the camera’s sensor during the exposure.

Your DSLR camera should include an image processing software within it, but this software will only work during daytime shooting, and cannot be used for calibration. That’s why you should get an image calibration software such as Images Plus, AstroArt, or Deepsky Stacker, just to name a few.


It seems like there’s no escaping Photoshop, even in astrophotography. Photoshop filters and actions correct your photos once you get them on your computer. For example, there’s a significant change you’ll get some noise in your pictures, but this software will reduce it so that your images end up as neat as possible.

General Steps in Shooting Astronomical Objects

startrails astrophotography

Now that we have gone through the principles of astrophotography, the equipment, and the software you need to get started on your journey, let’s put this knowledge into practice.

Once the mount is set up on your telescope, you will proceed to focus on a bright star. Then, you must move the telescope and/or the camera’s lens to point at your subject.

What you usually experienced during your time shooting will most likely not apply in this field of photography. Daylight or evening photography is quite different from the pitch black sky filled with very faint targets that require prolonged exposure.

Once you focus on your deep-sky object, just get many long bulb exposures with your computer or the time shutter release. As an astrophotographer, you will break the long exposure into short ones (up to ten minutes) and then average the short-exposure pictures on your computer using dedicated software to combine signal. Your result will be a photo which appears to have been done using a very long exposure.

You should only use RAW images. RAW images allow for more post-processing, such as chromatic aberration or sensor noise reductions, and they also contain more data on the photons collected.

Noise is a big issue when it comes to low light photography. Noise is not only unaesthetic, but it also destroys the image data. Shoot at the lowest ISO possible and try to obtain those long exposures at the widest aperture.

Your RAW image data will then be processed using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Camera RAW, Adobe Lightroom, or whatever software you prefer. Always zoom on your pictures to view all the details and see the dead pixels that need to the eliminated. Using curves and levels you can adjust the image’s contrast, and also minimize the noise. The more expensive the camera, the less stressful the editing process will be.


DSLR Astrophotograpy: A Difference in Style

DSLR astrophotography is the easiest way to get started with capturing the mysterious deep sky. Digital single-lens reflex cameras are the most versatile, and you can go from shooting portraits in the daylight to taking pictures of stars, galaxies, nebulae, and other astronomical objects, in the nighttime.

DSLR astrophotography has opened doors for everyone interested in one of the most visually rewarding fields of photography. DSLRs are easy to find, easy to use once you learn the ins and outs of making the optimal settings, and they also ensure high-quality images of the night sky. Top that with the fact that you can switch from the removable lens to a telescope that will act as the camera’s lens, and you get a fantastic device that can work just as good as a dedicated CCD camera.

dslr astrophotography milky way shot

Getting Started with DSLR astrophotography

· Camera

Generally speaking, any digital single-lens reflex camera is good enough to get you started with astrophotography. There are many DSLRs available, but those manufactured by Canon are the most appreciated among astrophotographers. It is the first camera maker to have cultivated this niche market with the first DSLR (the EOS 20Da) made specifically for astrophotography. Then, we got the Canon EOS 60Da, the 20Da’s successor, but there is little to no hope you’ll be able to find one to purchase. Although the model has been discontinued, Canon still incorporates many of its great features into the newer models. Nikon is the second best choice, and you won’t go wrong if you pick this specific brand for your astro shots.

Now, although DSLRs have the necessary features to ensure stunning images, there is one annoying function that astrophotographers hate. All DSLRs block the far-red end of the visible spectrum. That’s where the hydrogen gas fluoresces. Because of this, many people who are really taking astrophotography seriously have their DSLR modified. Photographers prefer to remove the infrared-blocking filter inside the camera and replace it with one that does just the opposite – conducts more of hydrogen emission’s red light. If you dare to have your camera customized, it is best you have a specialist look at it. Afterward, you will also have to play around with the color balance when shooting in the daytime.

One of the features you must look for when shopping for your DSLR astrophotography camera is the “Live View”. It will allow you to focus the lens or telescope far better compared to other methods.

· Lens

When capturing astronomical objects, you will want a wide angle lens. We recommend the following prime lenses for DSLR astrophotography: Rokinon 14mm f/2.8, Samyang 16mm f/2.0, Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8, Sigma 24mm f/1.4.

· Tripod

You will need at least a decent tripod for your camera. Make sure it is stiff and stable, preferably made of carbon fiber. It is also important not to be too heavy because you will have to carry it around everywhere you go.

astrophotography beginner kit

· Remote Release Switch

A remote release switch lets you open the shutter remotely and keep it open as long as you push the button. This ensures you get the most reduced vibration and movement as possible when the shutter is opened or closed.

· Tracking Mount

A tracking mount is a good, although expensive, investment because it will help you track astronomical objects. There are different types of mounts, but the one you should be looking for is an equatorial mount. Since you will be using it with your DSLR and tripod, look for a compact one, because it will get difficult to carry all this equipment with you on your star-shooting escapades. We suggest you check out the Vixen Polarie mount that comes with a tripod.

Getting Started with Astrophotography


To shoot astronomical bodies, you will need to focus on infinity. The best way to do that is to use the Live View function and 10X magnification on the subject (star, planet, nebulae, or anything else). The vari-angle LCD screens on some cameras are perfect for this, especially when you point your DSLR at a steep angle.

There are a few considerations you must keep in mind. As a rule, always use the brightest object in the deep sky to focus on. Secondly, it would be best to set the lens on manual and set the focus scale to infinity. If the lens has an Image Stabilization feature, you must turn it off. Then, you have to play around with the settings. Set your DSLR astrophotography camera’s lens to the widest aperture, set the exposure mode to manual, use ISO 1600, and set the shutter speed to Bulb for a bright Live View display.


One of the basic rules of astrophotography is that faint nebulae and galaxies require a high ISO (800 or 1600) and constellations, stars, and star clusters, need a lower ISO. When using high ISO, unfortunately, you are bound to experience some noise. However, there are plenty of ways to improve your final picture thanks to the many image editing software available on the web even for free. Image stacking also helps reduce that annoying grain.

Nikon D810A shot of a nebuale


Shutter speed represents the amount of time the shutter is open to receive photons onto the sensor. As a rule of the thumb, you need a long shutter speed in astrophotography. Constellation shots generally run from 10 to 30 seconds. Capturing wide fields can last about 5 to 10 minutes, while shot taken when focusing through a telescope might run about 30 to 90 minutes.

Do test shots. Take a series of exposures and then double for each. You can start at 1 second, and then move on to 2 seconds, then 4 seconds, and so on until you get to 30 seconds. You can then examine the results and see what works. Different exposure captures can also be stacked for brilliant final images.

White Balance

Set it to daylight or, better yet, create a custom white balance. Experiment with white balance settings, and try setting it to Tungsten when shooting long exposures of the deep sky. This will fix the sky background which would otherwise take on a brown or red color.

Image Processing

As with any type of photography, your picture will not come out just as you wish it would. Your image will either be too dark, too bright, the colors might be off, and you will most likely experience noise when shooting very high ISO pictures. That is undesired, but it is entirely normal. You can acquire an image editing software that is specifically developed for astrophotography purposes. Some popular programs for DSLR astrophotography are Images Plus, DeepSkyStacker, MaxIm DL, or even the standard Photoshop.

Astrophotography Tips

tent under the night sky

  • High altitude is preferable, so you might want to consider a hike to get better shots of the night sky.
  • Wait until it gets really, about one hour and a half after sunset. But you can still shoot earlier in the evening if you have no other choice because there are changes you will get a nice mix of blue sky and a few early
  • Watch the forecast before planning your observations. Clear conditions are essential to capture stunning images.
  • Leave the city, and try to get away as much as you can from any source of artificial light. Also, shoot in a direction away from towns.


Astrophotography Equipment Guide: Everything Useful

Astrophotography equipment means anything from a camera to an image editing software. Your astrophotography kit can contain dozens of devices, some affordable, some quite expensive. This is one of, if not the most, costly field of photography. You will want to start off with the basics, but in the end, after you completely fall in love with astrophotography, you will feel the need to buy all the wonderful devices that will help you capture the most mesmerizing images of the deep sky.

astrophotography equipment

Astrophotography Equipment – The Ultimate Stargazer Kit

  • Astrophotography camera

There are many types of cameras you can use to shoot the stars, galaxies, nebulae, etc. You can capture astronomical objects with a DSLR camera, a dedicated CCD camera, a point-and-shoot, and even the standard webcam.  As you can see, there are options to suit every pocket.

However, we would recommend you choose to go for the DSLR.  Digital single lens reflex cameras are easy to find, offer high-quality images, and you can use them in your day-to-day life. DSLRs feature removable lenses that come with a variety of focal lengths to fit your astrophotography need. For excellent results, attach a telescope to the camera to act as a lens. You won’t be disappointed. Additionally, you get full control over the shutter speeds, the aperture, and ISO.

  • Telescope

The second most vital tool of astrophotography equipment would be the telescope. The type of telescope you will choose to invest in (and mind you, they are pricey) largely depends on the kind of astrophotography you are into. The three common types of telescopes used for astrophotography are the Newtonian – the most affordable, the Schmidt-Cassegrain, and the Refractor – the most expensive.

Large telescopes are costly and also require expensive mounts. Beginners might want to start with a small refractor and add a field flattener to fix some of its issues. You can find out more about the best telescopes for astrophotography here.

telescope with a dslr attached

  • Mount

You also need a good mount to add to your camera and telescope in order to track the stars. There are many types of mounts, but the most used for astrophotography are the equatorial and the horizontal ones.

An equatorial mount has one of the axis directed towards the north or the south pole. This way, the polar axis is parallel to the Earth’s rotation axis.

A horizontal mount has one axis directed towards the zenith and controlling the azimuth angle, while the horizontal axis controls the elevation angle. This type of mount is not the ideal option for astrophotography.

Use an equatorial mount for your astronomical imaging because they are the best for this kind of photography, and they come in different price ranges. Some are quite affordable, and you can spend as little as $200 on a decent mount, which is quite cheap considering these devices can get up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

  • T-Mount

When hooking your camera to a telescope to use it as the camera’s lens, you will definitely need a T-mount adapter. You can find one specially made for the type of camera you use, whether you use a Canon or a Nikon. You will place it on the body of the camera and then insert it into the focuser of your scope. It is a cheap little tool, and you can spend less than $50 on one.

  • Autoguider

Another addition to your astrophotography equipment is the autoguider, used to keep your mount focused on the target, be it a star, a star cluster, nebulae, and more. You have two options: either choose a guiding telescope or an off-axis guider.

Guiding telescopes are mounted on top of the primary telescope used for imaging. Then, a guiding camera is plugged into the scope, and you can control it using a software on your computer. If choosing this method, consider the fact that you will also need to invest in a guide scope ring that is placed between the guiding scope and the main telescope.

Off-axis guiders are small devices with a little prism. Just as with a guiding scope, a camera has to be connected to the off-axis guider. This is a very precise method, and you won’t need to carry a second scope with you on your shooting trips. However, you have to be sure that your off-axis guider is well built and both it and the guiding camera are as sensible as possible.

astrophotography autoguider

  • Remote Release

A remote release is used to open the camera’s shutter without touching it. This prevents any movement and vibrations that may blur your pictures. The either wired, and wireless remote release only opens and closes the shutter once per every pressing of the release button. A timer remote controller offers more advantages because you can program a series of long exposures and pauses between frames.

  • Software

When it comes to astrophotography, there are plenty of software that can help you achieve the best results. The great thing about it? It’s one astrophotography equipment you won’t have to worry about having to carry with you and weighing heavy on your back.

The astrophotography software you should look into include DSLR camera control, image acquisition automation, software-assisted focusing, autoguiding software, image calibration software, photo stacking software, and editing tools.

With the help of astrophotography software such as camera control or software-assisted focusing, you can control the most important functions and settings of the camera using your computer. This means features such as ISO or shutter speeds to focus. Autoguiding software also helps you obtain higher tracking accuracy. The image acquisition automation software allows for many short exposure captures at specific time intervals that you can ultimately stack or combine. Through image calibration software you can get rid of some unwanted fixed signals or correct signal modifications.

startrails  software

Finally, you will want to adjust the color, brightness, noise, and more. There are many post-processing software available, some specially developed for astrophotography, some for universal use (Photoshop, for example). You can use programs such as Images Plus, IRIS, AstroArt, AIP, Startrails or you can stay with the classic Photoshop that has countless features that will really make your pictures pop.

Lightroom is also a good solution when it comes to basic corrections. It is also an excellent tool for organizing, managing, and also sharing your astronomical pictures.


Astrophotography Software – Capturing and Editing the Stars

Astrophotography software helps you add that little extra touch that helps your equipment obtain the best results possible, or helps you in your post-processing stage. Even the most skilled photographer cannot rely only on the capabilities of its camera, telescope, autoguider, and other astronomical imaging devices.

Once you have invested in your astro-equipment, it’s time to get your hands on a quality astrophotography software and get your photos sparking.

pleiades star cluster astrophotography software

Astrophotography Software – Capturing the Stars

When it comes to astrophotography software, we’re talking more than just image processing software. Here are a few types of software that are guaranteed to help you obtain the best results when you want  to target on your subjects:

DSLR Camera Control

Thanks to camera control software for DSLRs, astrophotographers can manage their camera functions and settings straight from the computer. Using a USB-2 cable, you get to Live View the real-time image that your camera sees on the computer screen. This also helps you achieve a better focus, and also to control the bulb setting for exposures exceeding 30 seconds.

You can download camera control software such as digiCamControl, Images Plus, and BackyardEOS or BackyardNIKON.

Software-Assisted Focusing

Accurate focus can be achieved with a little help from a software-assisted focusing. The latest DSLR models provide software focusing that can be obtained by manual focusing and Live Viewing the image on a computer. Additionally, you can use autofocus if you are shooting with an autofocus lens.

The types of focusing features you can find in the camera’s software are:

  • Numeric readout of the star’s brightness
  • Graphic representation of the star’s brightness
  • Numeric readout of the star’s image width

You can use software aids such as Brightest Pixel, FWHM (Full Width at Half Maximum), and CCDSoft Version 5.

Autoguiding Software

Guiding is a must when it comes to long exposures because that’s how you capture the highest quality images. Following your astronomical object, either manually or automatically, will correct the ascension and declination.

Autoguiding software used for higher tracking accuracy include GuideDog, PHD Guiding, CCDSoft, MaxIm DL, and Guidemaster.

Image Acquisition Automation

With image acquisition automation you can automate the process of capturing images. For example, you won’t have to shoot many short exposures manually when you can set your camera to shoot at specific time intervals. Images Plus, CCDAutoPilot, AstroIIDC, or MaxDSLR, can help you on this.

eagle nebula astrophotography software

The most reliable back yard software for astrophotography:

Astrophotography Software – Editing the Stars

Image Calibration Software

Image calibration removes undesired fixed signals and corrects signal modifications. This way, you get an accurate picture accurately representing the intensity of the light incident on the camera’s sensor at the time of the exposure. Images Plus and MaxDSLR, which you can use to aid you while actually capturing the image, can help you process your pictures too. You can also choose the editing-oriented software, such as IRIS, AstroArt, or Regim.

Photo Stacking Software

Image stacking is a process through which you can combine multiple images to get a final image that is more intensely detailed. This is mainly used in astrophotography, where stars can be too faint. But taking multiple photos of the same item and then merging them results in a single, eye-popping picture.

The best part of photo stacking is that it can be done with the world-renowned Photoshop, which you may already own. Additionally, you can opt for astrophotography software developed for editing purposes. DeepSkyStacker is a free post-processing software that is specially made to help astrophotographers stack their photos. Other freebies include Registax, Keith’s Image Stacker, and Nebulosity.

The most important thing to remember when merging your astronomical images is to align them neatly. You will most likely have to slide the pictures until the difference turns black, and you might have to rotate one or some of the layers for a perfect match. Then, play around with the layers’ transparency level, because you don’t want the result to be too overwhelming.

Image Correction Software

photoshop astrophotography software

As we always say, sometimes, it is just not enough to be incredibly talented and tech savvy to get the pictures just right. Astronomical objects are tricky and sneaky, and some captures might require more work than others. Have your colors come out a bit wrong? Are your targets too dim? Has a little bit of noise made its way into your photo? Luckily, you can fix all these, and more, with the help of the many post-processing software available on the web.

The fixes can be done in astrophotography software such as Images Plus, AIP, AstroArt, MaxDSLR, IRIS, which are quite useful for a large variety of purposes.

However, most astrophotographers would more likely prefer to switch to the good ol’ Photoshop. You can find countless tutorials on image processing dedicated to this field of photography.

A Little Glimpse into Astrophotography Post-Processing

First, you might want to install Lightroom. It’s the best program for organizing, managing, and sharing your pictures. You can even do a little bit of light editing if that’s what you’re aiming for. So either stick to Lightroom or fire up Photoshop and start working on your basics. Work on the contrast, color correction, reduce the noise, and go to the temperature sliders and adjust the color of the deep sky. The gradient tool is also an important feature, especially when bringing up the foreground. If you still have some remaining noise, you can brush it out in Photoshop.

startrails software

If you want to create the famous and mesmerizing star-trail photographs, you can either stack layers in Photoshop or download Startrails. Instead of taking just one long-exposure picture, you can take multiple short-exposure ones and then combine them to get that star-trail effect. The significant advantage is that the background will remain as dark as it would on a single long-exposure. Startrails also has a time-lapse movie feature, and you can then save your video as an AVI file. You can also take advantage of this feature to create other time-lapse videos, not just astronomical movies.


Best Camera for Astrophotography – Top 10 Picks for Stellar Images

Going shopping for the best camera for astrophotography? Let us help you make the best choice, and get you sailing the seas of astronomical photography. Whether you are an amateur or a professional photographer, it doesn’t matter that much in terms of managing to get a shot of the deep sky.

Astrophotography can be done even with the standard webcam or snapshot camera. What will set your pictures apart is the quality of the device you choose to invest in. A high-quality device ensures high-quality photos.

Two types of cameras stand out as being the most competent in the art of shooting celestial bodies, from stars and planets to galaxies and nebulae: CCD cameras and DSLRs.

galaxy best camera for astrophotography

Best Camera for Astrophotography – CCD

Cooled Astronomical CCD Cameras are constructed especially for scientific purposes. They offer top quality results, but they are also the most expensive among all types of cameras you can use to capture the deep sky.

You can get a cheap CCD camera that will cost about $100, but an advanced one will go as much as $44,000. We’ve rounded up a few cameras that proved to be both efficient in capturing excellent images of astronomical objects, and affordable enough not to sell your flat to buy one.


This is the cheapest alternative when you want to shoot planetary objects at the lowest price possible and still get richly detailed captures. This is the perfect beginner camera for astro-imaging fans. You can capture wonderful pictures of Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, or the Moon thanks to the CMOS imaging sensor that ensures a 1280 x 1024-pixel resolution for intricate planetary and lunar photos. It’s targeted at about $99, which is quite the bargain considering it is a CCD camera.


Whether you are interested in planetary or lunar imaging, or more into deep-sky imaging, it can do all. That’s quite a surprise coming from a $229 camera. One of the great features of the ZWO ASI120MM CCD camera is the ability to shoot up to 215 frames per second if choosing the reduced resolution mode, or up to 35 frames per second when going for the full resolution. And the 150-degree wide lens attachment lets you capture super wide angle shots.


If you are looking for an affordable planetary imaging camera, then this might just do the trick. It’s priced at $349 and is one of the best color imaging cameras in its price range. It can also be used for deep sky imaging because it supports a maximum shutter speed of up to 1000 seconds.

lunar phase best astrophotography camera


An excellent camera for either planetary or deep sky imaging, featuring cutting edge CMOS sensors for noise-absent, smooth images. Pair it with a telescope and you will get breathtaking photos of celestial bodies. Be prepared to pay about $649 for one.


We’ve allowed ourselves to go big by showing you a $1,000 camera. This state-of-the-art astronomy imagines shine in its price-range by producing beautiful pictures of the night sky. It allows for a maximum exposure of up to 2000 seconds, and it can be used for long sessions without worrying that it will overhead.

It is perfect for planetary or lunar imaging, but if you are more into deep space photography, it is fully capable of providing those long exposures required to shoot nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, and more.


Going back to the more affordable imaging devices, we present the Imaging Source IS-3CU camera, that gloats at capturing intricate details at only $570. The ICX205AK sensor that lies at the heart of it was manufactured by Sony, and we’re assured that the noise is minimal even at long exposure times thanks to this high-quality chip. The USB 2.0 connector that the camera is fitted with allows for a fast transfer of large amounts of data.


This tiny CCD camera packs a lot into its small frame. The ATIK Titan can record up to 15 fps in uncompressed 16-bit format, which translates into clear images of even low contrast planetary objects, such as the Sun or Saturn. It’s not the modest of cameras, coming in at $669, but some of its features surpass that of many astronomical cameras costing way more. You can either use it as a deep-sky camera or as a guide camera because of its high sensitivity and high frame rates.


Got $1,695 to spare? This top of the line little gem is an ideal purchase for anyone looking for an entry to middle level CCD camera. Its cooling system is one of the most efficient there is in the field of very small, compact CCDs.

nebulae best astrophotography camera


This is an 8 megapixel CCD camera with a Kodak KAF-8300 imaging sensor fitted on the inside. It’s not the exactly cheap, being targeted at $1,995, but it’s quite an irresistible price considering you get a large number of pixels and a mid-range astronomical imaging sensor that dares to compete with those of high-priced cameras.


You might want to sit down for this one. We all know astrophotography is the most expensive form of photography there is, but some might not be familiar with just how big the prices can get in terms of equipment. The PL4240 literally offers stellar-quality pictures of the night sky at the equally stellar price of $44,995. It’s a durable CCD, ensured to survive the most demanding conditions, in the harshest environments.

Best Camera for Astrophotography – DSLR

Digital Single Lens Reflex cameras are good enough to capture pictures of the night sky on their own, thanks to the wide range of removable lens. But if you really want to capture the precious details that will get lost using a standard lens, then pair your DSLR with a telescope and let your scope act as the camera lens. You will end up with a set of breathtaking photographs of astronomical objects without having to invest in a CCD camera.

You can use a DSLR in all forms of photography, so it would be a good option to go for a DSLR because you can take it outside in daylight and get equally excellent photos of landscapes, portraits of people, macro shots of plants, and more. Brand-wise, we suggest you choose either a Canon or a Nikon camera.


Best Telescope for Astrophotography – How to Choose Your Scope

Already looking for the best telescope for astrophotography? This means that you are ready to go on your celestial journey and shoot for the stars. Astrophotography is a beautiful hobby to take interest in, whether you want to keep it at a basic level or get serious about it. Either way, there’s no escaping you getting a telescope.

The three most important items that every astronomy enthusiast who also wants to take on photography should look into are a good camera, at least a decent telescope, and a solid tracking mount. You most likely already have a good DSLR camera to work with, and the mount should be on its way. But first, let’s find you the best telescope for astrophotography.

Astrophotography is quite an expensive form of photography. It requires patience and a lot of saving up. This being said, it is best to wait a while and save for a few months before going shopping for a telescope. The quality of the product will also dictate the quality of your end image. Downloading that perfect shot onto your computer and seeing how neatly you focused on your subject will make all efforts worthwhile.


How to Pick the Best Telescope for Astrophotography

You’ve probably spend some time choosing your camera, looking at different models from countless manufacturers, and also checking how much you afford to spend on it. You will do the same when it comes to picking your telescope. There are a few factors you should consider when choosing your equipment:

  • Area of interest. What astronomical objects would you most likely want to shoot? If you are fascinated by planets, you will need a telescope with a long focal length to get a glimpse at the Sun, the Moon, Mars, Saturn, and so on. But if you are keen on taking pictures of galaxies, nebulae, or star clusters, then a short focal length telescope will do the trick.
  • Portability. The size and weight of your scope is an important aspect. Don’t invest in a giant telescope if you don’t have a car to fit it in and no one to help you carry it. No matter what you choose to go with, remember that you will have to set up your telescope each time you use it if you don’t have a permanent observation spot to install it on.
  • Budget. How much are you willing to spend on astrophotography? Don’t go too big if astrophotography is just a passing phase.

Attributes of the Best Telescope for Astrophotography

best telescope for astrophotography

Telescopes are built to gather photons (light) and use it to help you examine your image in detail with your digital camera. This means that you will get to take a glimpse at fainter stars and star clusters that you otherwise would not be able to see with your bare eye. Smaller details can also be observed thanks to the scope’s magnifying capabilities.

Both telescopes and camera lenses have three primary attributes:

  • Aperture. As a rule, in astrophotography, you should always use large aperture because it will collect more photons. This feature will determine how much you get to see of the fainter stars in the night sky.
  • Focal length. As previously stated, think about what you want to take pictures of. The longer the focal length, the higher the magnification of the scope. It will be perfect to capture planets and double stars on camera.

Short focal length scopes will help you take wonderful photos of galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, and more. Just as the aperture, focal length is measured in inches or millimeters.

  • Focal ratio. Focal ratio is the bridge between aperture and focal length. It is basically the focal length divided by aperture. Its importance is evident when you want to shoot extended astronomical objects such as galaxies. A fast focal ratio assures short exposure, and will record the image faster.

Short focal length scopes usually have faster focal ratios whereas long focal length telescopes will have slow focal ratios.

Best Telescope for Astrophotography – Choosing Your Optical System

best telescope for astrophotography in the field

Refracting telescopes

Refracting telescopes use lenses to gather and focus the photons (light). This type of scope requires little maintenance because the optical tube is sealed, thus reducing problems with seeing effects that can affect other types of telescopes, such as the Newtonian.

Refracting telescopes allow for high contrast viewing, making them the excellent for lunar and planetary observation and all forms of deep-sky photography. This type of telescope is more expensive than some reflecting and the catadioptric telescopes.

Reflecting telescopes

Reflecting telescopes use mirrors to gather and focus the light. Most of these telescopes feature an open tube design, having the main mirror at the tube’s bottom end. When the light comes at the open end of the scope’s tube, it hits the main mirror and is reflected to the second mirror, a flat one fitted at the top of the tube. Light is then conducted out of the side of the scope’s tube for either viewing or photographing.

There are three types of reflecting telescopes:

  • Newtonian. Good Newtonian scopes provide high quality images of both planetary objects and deep sky targets. However, they can be high maintenance, since you must collimate it every viewing session and recoat it since its coating eventually gets to deteriorate.
  • Ritchey – Chretien. This type of scope is corrected for aberrations that might ruin your picture, which makes it perfect for astrophotography.
  • Cassegrain. It might not be the ideal option for night sky photography since it suffers from astigmatism and coma aberrations. Cassegrains are also kind of slow, around f/12, and can cause other problems for astrophotographers, such as curvature of field.


Catadioptrics scopes use both reflective and refractive optics. They use a primary mirror for light gathering and a second mirror for magnifying the light and return it to the tube’s bottom. These telescopes have a lens element at the tube’s front end to correct aberrations.

There are two types of Catadioptric scopes you should look into:

  • Schmidt – Cassegrain. These are quite popular scopes for astrophotography because they are cheap and easy to find. However, they are slow, around f/10, and do not have a flat focal plane. Nonetheless, they can still provide good pictures of the deep-sky.
  • Maksutov. These scopes are good for planetary photography, but the f/ratios can be too slow for other types of astrophotography.

telescope stars

In terms of what they have to provide to those eager to photograph the night sky, the refracting type can offer the best telescope for astrophotography. They are low-maintenance, free of some of the issue that other types of optical systems might have, such as overheating, optical dust, or the need of collimation before every session.

Looking for the best telescope for astrophotography? Have a look at the Orion EON 104mm ED-X2 f/6.25 Triplet Apo Refractor Telescope, Orion EON 130mm ED Triplet Apochromatic Refractor Telescope, Celestron Advanced VX 6 Refractor Telescope, or the more affordable Orion ED80 80mm f/7.5 Apochromatic Refractor Telescope and Orion 120mm f/5.0 Refractor Telescope Optical Tube Assembly.