I just got a new camera, a Canon EOS Rebel xti and I am still learning what it can do. What setting or ISO should I use to take a photo of a moon (with/without landscape)? And what setting or ISO do I put it on when I take photos of dawn, sunrise, dusk & sunset?

Taking photos of Moons, Sunrise & sunset are my favorites when it comes to taking photo shots!


3 Answers 3


I just got a new camera, a Canon EOS Rebel xti

Congratulations! New gear is always exciting. ;-) Also, welcome to Photo.SE.

I am still learning what it can do.

First thing to do: Read the manual. I know that sounds obvious and maybe condescending, but I get the strong impression that lots of people never read the manual when they get a new camera. I'll grant that it's unlikely to be a page-turner, but there's a lot of good info in there that you might never know if you don't go looking for it, and the answers to many beginner questions are in there too.

What setting or ISO should I use to take a photo of a moon (with/without landscape)? And what setting or ISO do I put it on when I take photos of dawn, sunrise, dusk & sunset?

We get a lot of questions along these lines, and rather than creating an imperfect explanation of how to figure out which settings you should use, I'm going to point you to some other questions:

(Kudos to MikeW for pointing to the second and third in comments.)

The first of those questions is really the most important: understanding the exposure triangle is really the key to creating a properly exposed image. The others obviously get to the specifics of sunset and moon shots, but once you've assimilated the exposure triangle into your soul you'll be able to figure out most of the rest on your own and it'll help you with all the other situations where you'd like to take a great shot.


The moon can be tricky since cameras will meter for the moon and all the black sky around it. This will fool the cameras lightmeter.

Since the same sun falls on the moon as on the earth, the basic starting point would be 1/ISO @ f/16. Usually the density of the air surrounding the earth and any particulate in it will require you to increase the exposure from one to two full stops from the sunny 16 rule.

When it comes to sunrise and sunset, just use the cameras lightmeter and make any adjustments after viewing the image on the LCD. Remember to have the white balance to daylight to assure that you get all the amazing reds, oranges, yellows and golden colours in the sky

  • \$\begingroup\$ Aye, the tricky thing about photographing the moon is that it is basically a daylight exposure, in the middle of the night. Rather non-intuitive but perfectly obvious once you think it properly through... \$\endgroup\$
    – Staale S
    Mar 23, 2017 at 3:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ Rather than the "Sunny 16", for the moon start with the "Loony 11" rule-of-thumb when the moon is more than about 20° above the horizon. Then work from there based on atmospheric conditions as well as the Moon's height above the horizon. The lower the moon is in the sky, the more of its light will be absorbed by the atmosphere before it reaches you. Due to the Moon's fairly dark albedo, reflection of the sun by the moon is about one stop dimmer than the "Sunny 16" rule-of-thumb. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Mar 28, 2021 at 4:59

Using the histogram in liveview mode adjust the exposure so that the light from the moon is centered in the histogram. Assuming it is the subject that would be normal exposure ... normal exposure is not a requirement since photography is an art form.

It may be helpful to zoom and or point the camera so that other foreground elements are not visible in the frame to isolate which parts of the histogram are the moon. Feel free to get the exposure for the moon from a different spot than the photo will be taken to have confidence of what part of the histogram is the moon ... the exposure will not change.

After getting the exposure for the moon frame the foreground elements. Note their exposure by how they effect the histogram. The postcard ideal is the photo is being taken in the twilight hour and these elements are at the same exposure.

For twilight or magic hour photos arrive early because natural light hitting the foreground elements will be changing; If you are early you can wait for them to intersect with how much you want them exposed.

For the twilight hour where the landscape is exposed by the sunset matching the full moon moonrise, you want to plan to take the photo the day before the real full moon. However, that exposure is a choose not a rule.

If the foreground elements are not at the same exposure:

  • Sometimes a flash or light painting can be used to add light to foreground elements that are nearby.
  • Two photos can be taken and blended in photoshop or an HDR can be made with three or more exposures.
  • It does not matter if the foreground elements are completely exposed. Vincent Van Gogh starry night painting does not have foreground elements completely exposed ... photography is an art form.

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