Moon and clouds

Shooting the mysterious Moon is a frequently discussed photography topic. For a Moon in a cloudless sky, the shooting pretty much is a matter of trivial exercise in term of exposure determination. We have some general tips for moon shooting. The following is the Moon shot with 1/640s f/8 and ISO 200.


It becomes challenging when you want to photograph the Moon behind the veil of the clouds. The reason? At night the Moon is so much brighter than the clouds, a proper exposure of the clouds will pretty much gurantee a blown-out Moon, just like the title image of this post, which was shot with 1/3s f/3.5 at ISO 200 -0.7EV. (It may be a good practice if you want to count the exposure differences between the two shots in stops or EV.)

Are there ways to preserve the details of the Moon surface while properly exposing the clouds?

Not a chance with single exposure but there are some tricks you can play.

  • Two exposures + HDR. Take one photo properly exposed for the Moon and another photo properly exposed for the clouds then blend them together using HDR method (tone mapping). The key is to make sure the Moon or the clouds haven’t moved significantly in the two photos.
  • Two exposures + Copy/Clone in image editors such as Adobe Photoshop. The two exposures do not have to be taken in the same day. You can merge a Moon shot taken in a cloudless day with a shot taken during a cloudy night.
  • Shoot the Moon during the day time when the brightness difference between the Moon and clouds isn’t great.

If you have other ideas please share with us using the comment box.

What inspired this post: Another “Moon shot” question – A discussion thread on flickr.

Posted in: Tips and Techniques on January 2nd, 2010. Trackback URI
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