Saturday, May 4, 2013

How to photograph stars for time lapse

Now I am no expert at photographing the stars, but I have learned a lot from the small amount of experience that I have had. In this post I am going to give a step by step guide on how to achieve the best results when photographing stars, along with tips and tricks I have learnt, and also with some tips on the post production side of star trail photography.

Equipment needed for star photography is very basic, you will need a DSLR, a wide lens (I use an EF-S 18-135mm f/3.5), a sturdy tripod to ensure the camera doesn't move during the long exposure shots or during the time lapse shoot and an intervalometer which is a device which automatically takes a picture for you at set intervals of time. I use the Magic Lantern firmware hack on my Canon DSLR, this makes it to I can have a built in intervalometer which saves carrying extra equipment. I highly recomend taking warm clothes, you will not regret taking gloves and a beanie hat, as it will get cold standing outside at night doing nothing.

These are the settings that I used for the star trail examples below, these settings don't need to be copied exactly to get good results. Firstly make sure you are using a long shutter speed, I recommend between 25 to 30 seconds long, doing this allows for plenty of light to hit your DSLRs sensor which helps bring out the stars in the sky. You also need to make sure you are shooting with an aperture which is at least f/3.5 or lower. ISO depends on how much brightness you need, but I usually use ISO 1600 on my Canon T3i because anything higher is quite noisy.

I won't go into too much detail about the post production side of star time lapse photography, but I do have recommendations on software to use if you are a Windows user. I usually batch edit and process time lapse photos using Digital Photo Professional, which is the free editing software that comes with all Canon DSLRs. I will then use Sony Vegas to edit the photos into a video file that can be uploaded to YouTube. I also have a free application called 'Startrails' which places every photo from a star time lapse into one image to show the 'trail' of the stars over time. You can download the 'Startrails' application by clicking this link which will take you to the official website.

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