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How to capture details of the moon?

I have a Nikon D3100 and I have 2 lenses; the 18-55mm and the 55-200mm. I'm unsure of what camera settings I need to use to get a nice shot of the moon, and pictures of lightening.

I would also a macro lens for my Nikon, any suggestions?

I'm new to this and would love any and all feed back.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to photo.stackexchange! You seem to be asking a number of different things here, so it would probably be best if you split this up into a number of different questions. \$\endgroup\$
    – Edd
    Nov 29, 2012 at 13:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Note, you don't "put settings on a camera". You use settings. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Nov 30, 2012 at 4:31

2 Answers 2


From my experience, the key to photographing the moon is to underexpose the image to capture details like the craters on the moon surface. At normal exposures, you'll just get a white round blob with no details whatsoever.

Try these steps:

  • Mount the camera on a tripod with the 55-200mm.
  • Use a remote shutter release. If you don't have one, use the timer.
  • Put the camera in full manual mode (abbreviated as M on the dial).
  • Shoot RAW, so that you can sharpen the image further in post processing.
  • Use these settings - ISO 100, aperture: f/8, shutter speed: 1/160 sec, WB: Auto or sunlight (try both).
  • The exposure metering will show the image as under-exposed, ignore it.
  • Zoom to 200mm and put the lens and camera in manual focus mode.
  • Switch to live view mode and magnify the image to the maximum extent.
  • Rotate the focus ring till the image is at its sharpest.
  • Use the remote shutter release or timer to take the shot.

These settings are based on my experience of shooting the moon with the D5100 and the 70-300mm VR lens and should apply to your setup as well. Experiment with different settings, especially the white balance and shutter speed and take lots of shots.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Expose for the moon you mean ? \$\endgroup\$ Nov 30, 2012 at 4:45

For the moon, the ideal scenario would be:

  • Camera on a tripod
  • Remote shutter release
  • Liveview focusing
  • Longest focal length you can manage (200mm in your case)

Then pick the aperture in which your lens is sharpest with the lowest ISO, and use one of the numerous online moon exposure calculators to work out your shutter speed.

However, I think you're going to struggle a bit with a D3100 and 200mm - my best attempt with my 550D (18 Mp) and 250mm is here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Here's mine at 200mm without crop. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 30, 2012 at 4:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ The original poster at least has the advantage that they'll be at 300mm equivalent due to being on a crop sensor. \$\endgroup\$
    – Philip Kendall
    Nov 30, 2012 at 8:46
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yes. It's really tiny at 200mm on a FF. \$\endgroup\$ Nov 30, 2012 at 9:21

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