Astrophotography For Beginners


Have a passion for astrophotography? Well, the good news is that you don’t have to start it big. What you need in amateur astrophotography are a good camera and a bulb setting. Of course, you will need also a telescope that supports attaching a camera to it.

The best option would be to get a DSLR camera. It will be much easier to operate and it ensures high-quality photos. However, you should use manual settings as practically there are no DSLR cameras with automatic astrophotography modes. Furthermore, playing with different exposure etc. settings gives you the ability to take amazing photos in all conditions and of all objects.

What kind of camera you should use

There are many brands of cameras to choose from. However, Canon and Nikon would be the best for our use. However, Nikon can be an inconvenience since it’s got some serious issues with noise reduction, at least in our tests. This makes Canon the best deal for astrophotography use. Read more about digital astrophotography techniques. Of course, if you don’t have DSLR camera, you could use any camera which can be fitted to the telescope. Some people use even cell phones and webcams. Besides of taking beautiful photos, you can also record amazing videos of the universe, as most cameras support video recording. However, that might require computerized GoTo telescope, which follows the object while recording.

What kind of telescope is the best choice?

Andromeda photographed

Besides the camera, you’ll need a telescope. And don’t go for just about any available model. Choose one that’s got a motor-drive with the convenience of photographic attachments.

To set up, ditch the factory lens that comes with your camera. Attach the camera’s body to the telescope transforming it into your new lens. You can use a T-ring connector to ease the whole process. Let the motor drive factor in the earth’s rotation to keep the target still on the CCD (Charge Coupled Device).

The size of the telescope will depend on your object of interest. Fainter objects will require a larger telescope and vice versa. For instance, a wider field of view is required to observe the large galaxies and nebulae. In short, what you need to consider is the focal ratio of your telescope.

Celestron CPC 800 XLT Computerized TelescopeShopping for your telescope can be quite a tricky process. But to stay on the safe side, settle for the best amateur telescope brands; Celestron and Orion telescopes. For example, Celestron CPC 800 XLT is a quite perfect for amateur astrophotographer. See the picture at the right, where a DSLR camera is attached to it. Some of the brands, such as Orion go to a greater extent to even provide a gallery of astronomical objects taken using their telescopes, something that you might find quite handy.

Accessories for astrophotography

Orion Nebula photographed.

There are certain accessories that will help aid your astrophotography. One of them is “telrad”, a device specially designed for amateur telescopes. This device helps you point your telescope in the exact direction you want it to point. Chances are that you might need very long photography exposures at some point.

This is where the “off-axis guider” comes in handy. As the name suggests, it allows for easy manual guidance of the telescope while the camera is exposing. Some may argue that the motor drive can take care of this. But the truth remains that the motor drive isn’t accurate enough for a precision guide that lasts 5-10 minutes.

Can I take photos of stars just with a camera and tripod?

The idea of a telescope might sound too costly for some. If that’s the case for you, then you might want to consider another alternative, a camera and tripod stand. But remember that this will restrict your wide field shots, such as the nebulae and nearby galaxies.

The trick to eliminating this is to go for top sky track motors mounted on the tripod. This will allow you get more exposure that last over 30 seconds. Alternatively, you can take deep images through exposure of multiple frames that are aligned and combined. But this is only possible if you’ve got the right software for the job. Star trails might also come in handy in getting impressive astrophotography images. However, it requires long exposure that last a few hours, something that makes a bulb setting quite essential.

Watch video about Astrophotography with Small Telescopes

Be sure to read also about astronomical targets for amateur astronomer, and our buyers guide.

If you have any questions or comments about how to get started and what you need, please leave a reply below!

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