The Milky Way is arguably among the most beautiful subjects to capture in photography. It's images remind us of how big the universe really is and how small in scale we really are compared to everything in it. The final pictures of the Milky Way are always amazing, being quite literally out of this world. No wonder it is one of the most popular subjects right now in photography.
In places that are not spoiled by the ambient glow of artificial light, you can simply look up and see the moon and the stars in all their glory. If you have access to areas like this in your city or state, you are very lucky because you can easily capture the thick stretch of glowing light in the sky. In reality, what we typically see in pictures isn’t really the Milky Way per se. In fact, it is quite impossible to capture it's entirety, simply because we are in it. The famous white belt of stars we see is only a small portion of the galaxy’s plane-- it’s the overwhelming light of billions of stars blending with dust and gas clouds. A small portion of the galaxy we belong to, but amazingly beautiful nonetheless.
If Milky Way photography is something you would like to learn, you would be happy to know that it's process is quite straightforward, especially with a handy camera trigger for extra stability. Before getting into the steps, here’s a handy list of things you will be needing for this niche:
- A DSLR Camera that has high ISO capabilities
- A wide-angle lens with a max aperture of f/2.8. If you do not have this, you can use the fastest and widest lens you have. Just remember: a wider lens will help you capture more of the Milky Way.
- A sturdy tripod
- A remote shutter like the MIOPS Mobile Remote Trigger, which has a timed-release mode.
With these gears in your pack, the next thing you will be needing is an understanding of your environment. You will have to find an area that’s far away from city lights since they can drastically affect the quality of your Milky Way photos. On top of that, you should also have an understanding of where the galaxy will be most visible. Remember that it is not completely visible to us, so knowing where to find this beauty is very important. Photographers in the Southern Hemisphere are quite lucky in this regard since the Milky Way’s central portions can be seen overhead year-round.
How to Take Great Milky Way Photos
With the basics out of the way, here’s an easy step-by-step instruction of how to capture the Milky Way in photographs.
1. Find the darkest spot you can.
As mentioned earlier, darkness plays a huge part in capturing great photos of the Milky Way. Shooting in cities can be very challenging since the city lights will get in the way of seeing the galaxy’s lights. Hence, find the darkest (and safest) spot you can in your area, and set up camp there. Also take note of which direction to face, since the galaxy is only visible in select locations for some land areas.
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2. Set up your tripod.
Your tripod will be playing an important role in this niche, so make sure to use one that is very sturdy and heavy. If you have a light one, you can hang a weight to further reduce shakes for your camera. Just remember that the point is to keep your camera steady to avoid potential blurs in your photos.
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3. Set up your camera.
Once your tripod is ready, the next step is to set up your camera. As previously mentioned, you will have to set up your camera to a higher ISO. You can start at ISO 3200, and go higher and lower accordingly. This can produce some noise, but it can definitely be fixed during post-processing. Also, have your wide-angle lens available, and adjust to capture the area you wish to freeze in photographs.
For Milky Way photography, knowing the 500 Rule may also come in handy. This refers to the method of finding out the right shutter speed depending on the focal length of your lens. So, if you have a 35mm lens, your ideal shutter speed is 14 seconds (500/35=14.28). This will help you avoid getting star trails, which are not necessarily good for Milky Way photos. You can set this up through your MIOPS Mobile Remote’s Timed Release feature.
Using the MIOPS Mobile Remote, you will be able to avoid the shaking caused by physically pressing the shutter button on the camera. Doing this can put to waste all the preparation you made with your tripod and camera. Having the Mobile Remote ready will help you avoid this by electronically triggering your camera. It also helps keep your camera’s shutter open for as long as you need, which is useful in a lot of photography niches.
4. Compose the photograph.
Sure, the Milky Way itself is captivating. However, you can add interest and character to your pictures by including mountains, recognizable buildings, people, or trees. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your composition. It’s a great subject, but it’s your composition that will set your photo apart from every other existing Milky Way photo.
Once you’ve got the basic equipment and knowledge handled, Milky Way photos won’t be as intimidating as it seems. After your first shoot, you will find that you will have to do more work in post-processing. You will have to reduce noise, improve color, and lessen ambient light, which may be a good reason to shoot in RAW to collect more information in photographs. Don’t be disheartened if you see your photos not looking like the pictures you see online, because, really, half the battle is improving your pictures during editing.
With these tips in mind, we hope we have inspired you to get out and capture the awe-inspiring Milky Way! Remember that you do not really need expensive equipment to capture it, but you will definitely be needing lots of planning and preparation to successfully take a great Milky Way photo.
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