Is Astrophotography Easy?
The answer to this common question is not as clear as it seems.
In general, astrophotography is considered quite difficult. In this article, we’ll discover why and if you’re interested in getting started in this amazing hobby then you’ll be well prepared!
Astrophotography is perhaps the most difficult form of photography. There is a very steep learning curve and you will first need the basics of photography to get started. It requires a lot of patience and can be quite expensive.
Astrophotography is easy to start
This is true but if you don’t know anything as I didn’t about photography, it will be necessary to understand camera settings like ISO, exposure settings, and F-number. Taking long exposures in the dark is one of the first problems to overcome.
The simplest way to start is to use a DSLR and tripod and get started snapping the night sky for at least exposures of 15-20 seconds. Learn more here about what you need for astrophotography.
Other items that you’ll need to learn about are filters, exposure time and integration time, manual focus, and stacking of your images. Lastly, image editing in programs like Photoshop will be essential to the quality of your final image. Without this last step, your images will look black and empty and the detail you are looking for will be lost until you are able to understand how to bring it out.
You’ll also need to learn about the equipment used for astronomy such as telescopes, guide scopes, eyepieces, cameras, and the different kinds of mounts you’ll need to track the movement of the stars as you image your target over hours. You’ll have to learn how to polar align a telescope mount and which different software you can use for each of the tasks you need.
You’ll also require clear skies!
From my experience, I recommend reading about astrophotography first and watching the many videos on youtube that explain aspects of this hobby. I also found Cloudy Nights to be a great forum where you can ask questions and get advice from experienced astrophotographers who once knew little about this.
Locating targets in the sky, how to image them, and stack them then process them on the computer are all steps you’ll need to practice to get good pictures from your equipment.
You’ll need to decide what kind of astrophotography you want to do. Are you interested in Planets, Galaxies, Nebulae, or Milky Way panoramas? These are all possible with simple equipment.
As you progress you will get better. Here are some of the challenges that you will face along the way:
- How to process your images in a program such as Photoshop
- What different kinds of software you can use for astrophotography
- Choosing and using a telescope, camera, and filters
- Cleaning your telescope mirror when necessary
- Understanding how many sub-exposures and what length is best for your target
- What to do about light pollution
- How to use auto guiding for longer and better exposures
- How to research before you get any new equipment
Astrophotography requires dedication and trial and error. It is both technical and creative. Have you got what it takes?
If you have then I welcome you to a challenging but highly rewarding adventure to discover more about astronomy through photography.
Author: Karl Perera