I am trying to capture the clouds flowing in front of the moon at night on a video. I using a Nikon D3400 with a 70-300mm lens at 1080p-60fps. At ISO-100 I am able to see the textures of the moon (it's not just a bright disc) but I can't see any of the clouds.

I need to increase the ISO to around 12800 to be able to see a good amount of clouds. However, at this setting, the moon looks like a white artificial disc in my video. enter image description here

What can be a good way to get a little bit more shadows from the moon but still be able to see the clouds.

  • \$\begingroup\$ I can't add an answer as I'm not sure if it would help, but for the better-informed than me… would a polariser help at all? I've seen them pick detail out in clouds, but idk if it would really help the over-exposed moon at all, never tried it on a night shot. \$\endgroup\$
    – Tetsujin
    Sep 1, 2020 at 16:02

2 Answers 2


Every stop you increase the ISO you loose a stop of DR from the highlights.

enter image description here https://photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR.htm#Nikon%20D3400

But luckily for you the D3400 is nearly entirely ISO invariant and there is less than half a stop benefit to raising the ISO as compared to just recovering the underexposure in post. And a one half stop difference is barely perceptible.

enter image description here https://photonstophotos.net/Charts/PDR_Shadow.htm#Nikon%20D3400

So your best choice for maximum DR is to use base ISO and selectively recover the underexposed areas in post. A slightly better answer (.5 stop) is to use ISO 400 instead IF that is enough to retain the highlights you need.

But make no mistake, the underexposed areas will look as if ISO 12800 was used even if you use ISO 100 instead and add 7stops of recovery.

(screen captures used with permission)


All you can really do is exactly the same as you would for a photo: protect the highlights, and lift the shadows in post-processing. In your case, that probably means dropping the ISO.

However, I suspect you may well find the results of doing this with your D3400 aren't of the quality you want, because the sensor has only a limited dynamic range and once you drop the ISO enough to get some detail in the moon, you'll find that the results of lifting the shadows are too noisy. While we very much like to say around here that photography isn't about the gear, it's about the photographer, there are cases when it is about the gear, and this is one of them - full frame sensors do have significantly better DR than crop sensors.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Note that this is answer deliberately concentrates on photography, because this is Photography SE. If you need a video specific answer, Video Production exists, but the fundamental principle of protecting the highlights is the same. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Sep 1, 2020 at 12:26

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