Astrophotography is a specific area of photography that focuses on astronomical entities as its subjects. Anything from stars to planets to entire galaxies can be the subject of astrophotography. However, because astrophotography is defined by its use of extremely far away, naturally dimmer subjects, practicing astrophotography can present a photographer with unique challenges.
For example, while wedding, fashion and portrait photographers can use artificial light to illuminate their subjects, those who perform astrophotography have to rely on the ambient light of the sun (a factor they can’t control) to brighten their subjects enough to capture them on film.
Another distinction that separates astrophotographers from those who practice other types of photography is the equipment they use to take pictures. Although you may be able to start practicing astrophotography without spending much money, chances are that you will have to invest in a quality camera and telescope, the latter being a unique piece of equipment necessary to performing astrophotography.
In general, buying both a camera and a telescope can cost you several hundred dollars, especially if you want to get the latest technologies for digital astrophotography. However, if you can afford to put forth a chunk of money to invest in quality equipment, you are far more likely to get quality results.
Other factors that set astrophotography apart from other types of photography include:
- the absolute need for long exposure times
- the increased emphasis on using multiple exposures (usually more than 20 exposures to effectively capture each image)
- the need to accurately compensate a subject’s movement with the rotation of the earth
While getting started with astrophotography may seem intimidating or overwhelming, don’t let these unique features of this type of photography scare you away! Having some basic knowledge of photography, along with determination, patience and time to practice, are all key to developing and improving your hobby of astrophotography.
In this section, we will give you tips for getting started with astrophotography. Our articles will explain not only how to choose appropriate telescopes and cameras, but they will also provide you with advice on the best times and areas to practice your hobby of astrophotography.
Telescopes and Cameras
As previously stated, cameras coupled with telescopes are essential to getting your astrophotography hobby started. However, given the vast number of camera and telescope manufacturers, there are an endless number of possible varieties from which to choose when you are getting your first camera and telescope to start practicing astrophotography.
To make your decision easier while ensuring that you are buying the right product for you, first decide whether you simply want to capture images or whether you want to observe the sky AND take pictures of celestial entities.
Next, you will need to understand the basic types of telescopes and camera models that are the most effective for your needs. Each of the three following types of telescopes has unique pros and cons when used in astrophotography:
- the Newtonian Reflector Telescope
- the Refractor Telescope
- the Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope (SCT)
For example, while the Newtonian Reflector Telescope tends to be large and unwieldy, it is a cheaper model that can be best for those first starting to practice astrophotography.
Alternatively, the more portable SCT has the benefit of infrequently needing collimation, a potentially time-consuming process in which a person needs to readjust particular features of the telescope to realign the light that enter it. On the downside, however, a SCT may need other time-consuming adjustments to take a picture “on time” or within the right time range.
With all of the nuances associated with different pieces of equipment, be sure that you adequately research telescopes and cameras for astrophotography before making a purchase.