I see pictures of the moon that looks like it is very close to the earth; I am wondering whether they are real or is there a trick to show the moon that big?

Here is an example: http://www.spaceweather.com/swpod2011/20mar11/Paco-Bellido1.jpg

  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If it isn't faked with a moon shot overlay, it will be with a long lens or cropping to get the appearance of a long lens, probably both. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 9, 2013 at 22:55
  • 7
    \$\begingroup\$ This particular example appears to be real. However, it's also often faked. If you see a spectacular huge moon over a wide-angle view (commonly, a city skyline), be suspicious. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Feb 10, 2013 at 14:06
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ If you have a really big zoom lens, and the moon is close to the horizon, and you are far enough away from the subject you want to place with the moon, then you can get that kind of shot. \$\endgroup\$ May 21, 2014 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ The Nikon P1000 has a 3000mm effective focal length at maximum zoom. It shouldn't fit in the frame the short direction. \$\endgroup\$ Feb 1, 2021 at 3:36

4 Answers 4


Those are done using the compression of a telephoto lens. Longer lenses will magnify the subject, so will make the moon look bigger. It will also make buildings and other objects bigger, but by moving yourself further away from those earthbound objects you can reduce them back to a smaller size. But you can't really get further away from the moon, so it will remain the same size no matter where you move locally.

So in your example, that might look like it was taken from a short distance away with a 50mm lens, but in fact it may have been taken much further away with a 500mm lens. Result is the foreground looks about the same as if you'd taken it closer with a 50mm lens, but the moon on the other hand is magnified quite a bit.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ If such a shot were made with a normal 50mm lens, you would have a small moon and small buildings because you would be so far from the buildings to get that perspective. Now crop a tiny spot out, and imagine high resolution the normal lens cannot give you. Same thing. \$\endgroup\$
    – Skaperen
    Feb 10, 2013 at 7:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ I once photographed the moon with a 500mm and still it was much further away compared to the example given. Are there other factors that matter? Or is this a crop? \$\endgroup\$
    – Fer
    Feb 12, 2013 at 21:09
  • 16
    \$\begingroup\$ For me it really clicked when I saw the pictures in this article. The first image shows a man totally encompassed by the outline of a solar eclipse. The second image shows the setup of the photographer 1.5 miles away, with a huge telephoto lens and extenders on a crop-sensor camera for maximum magnification. \$\endgroup\$
    – BioGeek
    Feb 25, 2013 at 19:28
  • \$\begingroup\$ That helps to understand how photos can "lie", which most people don't even know is possible without editing. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 7, 2020 at 11:37

It is worth mentioning the 'moon illusion' as well. The moon will look big to the human eye when close to the horizon but it is an illusion - try a photograph and see it 'shrink' to it's proper size.


And as a direct answer to your questions, long lens and careful placement of foreground interest.


It seems to be real.

If you are shooting the moon with a 800mm lens, the image of the moon will be approximatly 8mm in diameter.

If Paco used an APSC sensor, the dimensions of the image frame make sense.

Thomas Mueller


An easy to demonstrate "bar bet trick" is to ask someone what object held at full arm's length most closely just covers a full moon/the sun - a coaster, a bottle cap, an aspirin? It's the aspirin! We mentally enlarge the object in our primary focus with the naked eye, and even though our broad field of vision is considered equivalent to 35-50mm lens equivalent in a 35mm SLR, it's mostly just blur except for the small central focus we concentrate on. Knowing this, it's easy to see why long telephoto equivalents are essential in shooting to fill a better part of a scene with the sun or moon.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.