I tried taking photo of the moon and this is what I got with first try:

enter image description here

I was on Spot metering, ISO 64, f2.8 and focal length 200mm on a FX camera. The problem is it is a lonely moon! I want some trees, leaves, etc... in the foreground too but everything else was so dark I had to just crop the moon.

So my question is how I take a picture of the moon with some visible foreground elements in it? not just the moon alone.

  • Shoot the moon shortly before sunset or shortly after sunrise when the sky and landscape is much closer in brightness to the surface of the moon. And in general it is easier to set exposure manually when shooting the moon. I usually start out at about ISO 200, 1/200 sec, f/8 (one stop dimmer than the sunny 16 rule-of-thumb). See photo.stackexchange.com/a/52063/15871
    – Michael C
    Apr 3 '15 at 23:51
  • 1
    A common technique used by most is taking a a shot of the moon and a seperate shot of the foreground then combining/masking the 2 in post. Apr 5 '15 at 16:17

If you want the moon to be your only light source, the difference of brightness between the moon and the landscape is similar to the difference of light between the sun and the same landscape (i.e., Lightsource - Landscape).

You never expect to have the sun "well exposed" but of course you want to see the moon's features.

So you have 3 options.

  1. If you have objects close to you, use additional light sources, probably some off camera flashes (don't use the camera's built in flash please) so you can combine the aperture for a well exposed foreground object and the long shutter speed for the moon.

  2. Make multiple shoots and combine them in post production. This will work best for general landscapes.

    • A normal masking technique.

    • An HDR tone mapping technique.

  3. You can probably shoot the moon while there is still some sunlight at dawn or dusk. This will give you additional light and a different mood to your photo.


To answer your question "how I take a picture of the moon with some visible foreground elements in it?", I'd suggest afternoons and evenings offer some great opportunities as the light at these times can create a good balance between the foreground and the moon's brightness.

The pic below was taken at around 3pm on a November afternoon, no image editing/compositing was involved and no special techniques employed beyond the conversion to greyscale - I just used a polarizer to darken the sky and that was pretty much it...

Limestone rocks near Conistone Dib


If you are on a low budget and have a smartphone, you could use the phone's torch function to light up the foreground. I use this technique for macro shots and it works fairly well, though you may need to vary your shutter speed for the best results.

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