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January 10, 2019

All photos by Telescope Watch.

Did you know that the next Total Lunar Eclipse will take place in a few weeks on January 21? The entirety of this phenomenon will be visible from North and South America, and Western parts of Europe and Africa. On the other hand, Central and Eastern Africa, Europe, and Asia will only see a partial eclipse of the Moon.

Wherever you are in the world, this might be a great opportunity for you to finally take an impressive image of the moon.

If astrophotography isn’t your forte and taking moon pictures is more of a simple hobby, using mobile phones can be enough. Mostly though, DSLR (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) or SLR (Single-Lens Reflex) cameras are used by astrophotography enthusiasts.

Camera and phone on wooden bench
Photography Techniques When Using The Telescope

To obtain moon images that have more depth and structure, you have to use a telescope with your camera. Generally, there are 3 techniques that I use when it comes to astrophotography. These are Afocal, Prime Focus, and Eyepiece Projection technique.

1. Afocal Method

First things first, how can you use your mobile phone in lunar photography? Simply find the best telescope that you can obtain and directly point it to the telescope’s eyepiece. Also known as afocal photography, this method is best used with smartphones and point and shoot cameras.

This method is easiest and probably the most inexpensive way of shooting through a telescope. However, since it is simple, the quality might not be up to par.

It is better to have a steady hand or a tripod when shooting afocally. You can also make a customized mount to secure the camera onto the telescope’s eyepiece. This would also prevent possible image vignetting.

Moon photo on clear night
2. Prime Focus Method

Another method is the Prime Focus. With this, you are basically attaching the telescope to the camera. It then acts as the camera’s long telephoto lens.

To be able to do this, you must first remove the kit lens and attach a T-ring and T-Adaptor that corresponds to the brand of your camera. The adapter slips into the telescope's focuser where the eyepiece is usually located.

The quality of the photos that you can get when using this technique is comparably better than the afocal method. The telescope offers increased focal length and the right focal ratio to produce a perfect moon image.

3. Eyepiece Projection Method

Last but not least is the Eyepiece Projection technique. This is a more advanced method than the Afocal and Prime Focus methods. Also, photos that are taken through this technique are larger, far more detailed, but also more expensive. You will be able to see the moon’s craters, mountains, and edges.

You also need T-rings and adaptor to be able to mount the telescope. The only difference of this method to Prime Focus is that it adds an eyepiece into the optical path.

In turn, this increases the focal length and magnification considerably. However, since it has a higher focal ratio, the resulting image may become fainter. You would need to compensate by adjusting the exposure time and ISO speed to achieve the optimal result.

Experienced and advanced astrophotographers use this technique. It is advisable to have the camera remotely controlled or have delayed shutter release to avoid vibrations.

Moon photography on clear night

Additional Tips


  • The camera tends to shake when clicking the shutter and this will result in blurry pictures. Always use a sturdy tripod as well as a remote trigger to help avoid the problem.
  • The moon is already bright by itself, thus, it would not need a higher ISO setting. This would only make the image “noisier”.
  • Using slower shutter speed can make a trailing effect on your image since the moon orbits the Earth at a speed of approximately 2,290 miles per hour. Having a minimum shutter speed at a 1/125-second is advisable.
  • It is always better to use a manual focus setting than autofocus. Also, autoexposure won't be able to cope with a bright moon on a dark surrounding.
  • Use various exposure settings or also known as “bracketing”. You would have a greater chance of getting a good quality lunar image through it.
  • To have clearer shots, take a trip to the countryside. There is too much air and light pollution in the city.

The thing about lunar photography is that you don’t have to wait for an eclipse to be able to enjoy the moon’s beauty. You can play around with it and incorporate it with different objects, backgrounds or landscapes. You can also document the moon’s changing phases.

With the use of a telescope and a camera, you can enjoy the ethereal beauty of the earth’s natural satellite.

telescope for moon photography

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