One of my favorite things to photograph is the night sky. I am always looking for excuses to escape the city lights and stay up late to take pictures of the stars. I am continually trying to improve my skills but have learned a few things along the way that I'd love to share with you! Read along to see my tips:
1. Find a place with really dark skies. Escape the busy world for a while and get away from the city lights. I always try to take night sky pictures when I'm camping or on a late night hike. If you can't get away, try to find a less busy street with no street lights.
2. Use a tripod. Or if you don't have one, set your camera down on something stable. I don't always like bringing my tripod everywhere so I have been known to use a big rubbermaid bin, huge rocks, bridges, and the ground on occasion. Stability is really important in getting a good clear shot.
3. Don't touch your camera. To go along with the last tip, for even more stability use a remote or the self-timer. I don't love the remote I have (I need to get a new one) so I am often using the 2 second self-timer for night photos. It's basically a delay so that I can get my hands off the camera. To get the best shots, you don't want to be touching your camera because no matter how still you think you are being, you are still moving.
4. Use manual focus and set to infinity (∞). When I was first trying to take night pictures I could not figure out how to get the pictures in focus, and I hate when pictures are out of focus (just ask my family...). The key here is just to set it to manual and infinity.
5. Learn how to use the histogram on your camera. When you're shooting at night, and you look at the LCD screen, you'll probably think that the photos are bright enough, and then get home or look again in the morning and notice that the pictures are way too dark. The histogram on your camera will help you fix this problem. It's that charty looking thing that appears when you press info. Basically, if most of the lines are on the left side it means the pictures is too dark, and if most of the lines are on the right side it means the picture is too light. You want your lines spread out fairly evenly across the whole chart. This will be difficult shooting in the dark, but it is possible.
Most of these pictures I took with my wide angle lens, on manual (I always, always shoot in manual), with f/3.5-4, ISO 400 and somewhere between a 20-30 second shutter. It's all trial and error though, to get it exactly how you want it. The long shutter here is key, and sometimes allows you to catch neat shooting starts or satellites. Try it out! You'll love the results.
P.S. I'd love to see your pictures, if you try taking some night sky pictures comment below with a link!