Photography Tutorials Beta
Already Bookmarked this Photography Guide Bookmarked
Bookmark this Photography Guide Bookmark
Already Liked this Photography Guide Liked
Like this Photography Guide Like
Share on Facebook Share
Add to Pinterest PinIt
Share on Twitter Tweet
Share on Google Plus Share
Share on StumbleUpon Stumble
Basic Star Trails Shot

Basic Star Trails Shot

Step 1

Star trail shots make truly beautiful photos.  They are really not that hard to capture - they just require a lot of time to get a good shot.  Most star trail exposures will be several hours in length.  When you make a mistake and need to restart the shot, you may have just wasted several hours of time.

In this shot aove the expsoure was about ~45 mins.  Let's go over how I setup the shot.

With star trail photos a tripod is mandatory.  The heavier and sturdier the tripod the better.  However you can use your camera bag or other weights to weight down a standard tripod if you need to.

The second most crititcal aspect of setting up the shot is making sure that you are in an area that is protected from the wind.  Since your exposure is so long you may find that a windy night will really mess up the focus on the shot.

Step 2

Wehn you have your location and tripod setup it is now time to frame your shot.  For this step you will want to change your aperture, shutter and falsh settings so that you can take some sample shots without having to wait for the long exposure.  Take a few normal shots with the flash to make sur eyou like your composition and arrangement.  make adjustments as needed until you find the composition you like.  Try to have something in the foreground, a tree, rock, building, mountain, etc all make great foreground elements for star trail photography.

Once you have your shot composed the way you want it you can now setup your expsoure settings.  For star trail photography you will be using the "BULB" setting within your camera.  This allows you to hold the shutter open until you manually close it.  For this step a shutter release cable is pretty mandatory so that you can lock the shutter open without having to hold your finger against your camera.  

Step 3

The last step in star trail photography is knowing just how long to keep the shutter open.  There is a little bit of both an art and a science to this.  The science is that you do not want to let to much light in which will cause your sky to go grey and get a littl ebit of washout.  On the other hand, you might not have several hours to commit to the time star trail.  In the exampel above I used an aperture of f8 and an ISO of 200.  Looking back I should have used an ISO of 100 to reduce as much noise as possible.  I also would have liked to have used a larger aperture but I had limited time to work that night.  Generally I try to capture star trail shots over an hour in length, using a middle to large aperture and an ISO of 100.

Skill Level
Expert

Share this Guide:
Share on Facebook Share
Share on Twitter Tweet
Share on Google Plus Share
Share on Reddit Reddit
Share on Digg Digg
Share on StumbleUpon Stumble

Author Bio

Ben Hall

Ben Hall

Ben Hall lives in the San Francisco Bay Area working as a software engineer. Photography is a side passion that Ben can't seem to get enough of. His favorite subjects are Landscapes, Underwater and action shots.


User Comments

Recently Published Guides

Rusty Bus in an Open Field
Rusty Bus in an Open Field
This photograph is of an old rusty bus in a wide open green field. It has great contrast and depth.
views 317 views
Purple Flower with Shallow Depth of Field
Purple Flower with Shallow Depth of Field
This photo recipe shows a purple flower with a very shallow depth of field. The background is blurred and out of focus while the foreground is sharp.
views 376 views
Ecuadorian Cathedral at Night
Ecuadorian Cathedral at Night
This photo recipe shows you how to capture a night shot of a building where there might not be a lot of light available to you.
views 202 views
Wide Angle Blue Lake with Mountains in the Background
Wide Angle Blue Lake with Mountains in the Background
This image shows a panorama of a deep blue lake (rae lakes) with sharp mountains in the background.
views 252 views
Large Meadow with Sharp Mountains
Large Meadow with Sharp Mountains
This shot is of a large meadow with grand mountains behind it. The difficulty is in maintaining the depth of field and color balance.
views 234 views

Submit a Guide

Win an Amazon Gift Card!

amazon-gift-card

Submit a Guide

Author Benefits | Contest Details

Follow Us

Recent Guides

Purple Flower with Shallow Depth of Field
Purple Flower with Shallow Depth of Field
This photo recipe shows a purple flower with a very shallow depth of field. The background is blurred and out of focus while the foreground is sharp.

Basic Star Trails Shot
Basic Star Trails Shot
This guide shows you how to make a basic star trails shot with your digital camera

Peaceful Creek in the Wilderness
Peaceful Creek in the Wilderness
The key component of this image is the location. Finding a secluded creek-bed with an interesting foreground element with a setting sun in the background.

Ecuadorian Cathedral at Night
Ecuadorian Cathedral at Night
This photo recipe shows you how to capture a night shot of a building where there might not be a lot of light available to you.

Peaceful Lake Shot with transparent Water
Peaceful Lake Shot with transparent Water
The trick to getting a good lake shot is in the water, whether that is a reflection or transparent water.

Copyright 2014 Magic Hour Guides by Dimbal Software - All Rights Reserved. Site URL: