In this answer, Derrick suggests that

you have to choose your time carefully to get good shadows

How exactly should I go about choosing appropriate time, what should I take into account? Are there any samples of "bad" and "good" timed photos?

  • 4
    a bad time would be when the moon is the other side of the Earth! – Matt Grum Jul 16 '12 at 9:32
  • I would have to say thats the only bad time to photograph the moon! :D – jrista Jul 16 '12 at 19:49
  • Well, there's always the option to travel... – Imre Jul 16 '12 at 19:59

If "to get good shadows" he means shadows cast by surface features on the moon, thats entirely a matter of opinion. The moon has dozens of faces, from thin crescents, normal crescents, half moons, gibbous moons, full moons for both waxing and waning, as well as eclipsed moons. I've shot the moon a lot myself, and I can't say there is any "right time". Its the moon, its ever present and always beautiful. Don't limit yourself.

I've never really considered what time I've photographed the moon...it never really seemed to be a factor. I've shot the moon at all times, all phases, day, sunset, night and early morning, in the clouds, above the trees, over cities, and solo. I've shot it in and out of focus, with and without feature shadows. It doesn't really matter what time you photograph the moon. It has a thousand faces, and each one is pretty amazing.

(Note: The only thing that really does matter is focal length. Most of my shots are taken at 400mm, more simply because that is the lens I have than anything else. Longer lenses can be useful in gathering more surface detail, however they can also limit your creativity. With a high resolution camera, you might be surprised how much detail you can get out of the center of the frame at 400mm, and the shorter focal length often lets you capture intriguing foreground detail as well as the moon itself.)

Here are some of my moon shots on 500px:

Here are a few more I have yet to publish anywhere:

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  • 1
    Wow, need to fix the last shot...it looked far less exposed and noisy in the shadows on my calibrated screen at home, but it looks like crap on my screen at work. There is more noise in a few of the other shots as well, and contrast seems to suffer on my cheaper work screens. I'll try to fix tonight...pretty surprising how much of a difference a calibrated screen means to the quality of a photograph on-screen....O_o. – jrista Jul 16 '12 at 19:46

Photographing the moon is a lot like shooting a portrait.

When the moon is full the light hitting the moon is coming from your direction, this is flat light, you can get a lot of details but you can't see and texture in the moon because there are no shadows (think about it as the on-camera flash of lunar photography).

When the moon is a thin crescent the light is hitting it from the side, you get shadows and a nice texture but you only see a small part of the moon - and unlike a a portrait you can't use fill flash :-)

Any time between those two extremes is, well, between those two extremes - the smaller the moon is the more shadows and texture you get and the right time is a creative decision and depends mostly on your preference.

  • You can push exposure on a moon shot a LOT, and drag down highlights, shadows, and blacks in post to create a very detailed shot of the moon, even without shadows. Shooting the moon when it is in a non-full phase has its benefits, and you can bring out depth in the details, but that is not necessarily the only valid way to photograph the moon. – jrista Jul 16 '12 at 19:46
  • @jrista - I didn't mean to say photographing the full moon is bad, just that each phase of the moon will create a different look and that's the timing is a creative decision (however, I do think my own full-moon photos are boring) – Nir Jul 16 '12 at 20:02

I think there are good and bad times to photograph the moon, mostly related to the distance it is from you.

  • Not on a hot or humid evening. The heat creates a haze that will make your photo less sharp.
  • Not when you can see a sky full of thin, whispy clouds with an opening for the moon to pop through. Chances are that there are clouds in front of the moon and they're just too thin for you to easily see -- they'll make your photo less sharp. (Caveat: unless you're trying to capture a photo with these clouds in it, of course.)
  • If it's cold enough that you can see your breath, be conscious of where other people are. That breath can cause a fog in front of the camera, and with a little wind can help coat the lens with moisture.
  • Haze has other benefits for moon photography, such as adding a glow around it, which can add to artistic effect. Thin, whispy clouds also create a halo effect, but also have the added benefit of adding intriguing shadows that add to mood. Controlling your breath to avoid condensation is just a part of the game, and something you would need to control for any night photography during cold nights...same as with aurora photography or anything else. My answer has sample images in all of the cases you described, and I think all of them were taken at valid "times", regardless of conditions. – jrista Jul 16 '12 at 19:44

In below link, author mentions about the right time and other details for shooting the full moon, crescent etc.



The moon is a sunlit 11% grey rock that subtends about 1/2 a degree of arc. So even though it is night for you where you are the moon is still in sunlight! The moon also will cross its own diameter from the point of view of your lens in about 2 minutes.

The real problem is that it is small, and you can get closer to it, so you need a really long lens. The normal way to do that is to get a telescope and put a camera adapter on it. The good news is that you can get a 90mm telescope for under $250 and put a camera adapter on it from Orion Telescopes.

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