Written by 6:46 am Photography Tips

What settings to use on Your Camera for Astrophotography?

What settings to use on your camera for astrophotography

Knowing the best settings for Astrophotography can help you to take pictures of the sky at its best. Sometimes, it can be tough to take pictures of the night sky, and it is important to take care of what settings to use on your camera for astrophotography. For example, you may end up with a dark photo or motion blur due to a poorly adjusted camera setting. So we are writing some setting instructions to clear things up and show you how to set your camera for astrophotography properly.

Table of Contents

    Why Knowing the Best Settings for Astrophotography Matters?

    best settings for astrophotography

    Understanding the best settings for astrophotography is paramount to creating stunning night sky images with precision and clarity. In this specialized field of photography where subjects include galaxies, stars, or celestial events – having the correct camera settings makes all the difference when trying to capture such moments with clarity and precision. The best settings for Astrophotography include exposure time, aperture size, ISO sensitivity setting, and focus can make all the difference when taking this kind of photography; without these settings in place, even advanced camera equipment might fail us when trying to deliver breathtaking cosmic imagery of that captivate us and leave us speechless with amazement and wonderment!

    What Focal Length settings to use on Your Camera for astrophotography?

    When it comes to the best settings for astrophotography, start with the focal length. If your goal is a classic landscape with the Milky Way overhead, the best camera lens to use is the widest lens possible. Ultra-wide lenses offer some major advantages when photographing the night sky. One major advantage is that ultra-wide lenses can show more of the Milky Way in your pictures. Another major advantage is that ultra-wide lenses produce a greater depth of field, which means it will be easier to capture sharp images of foreground objects in your photos. And another thing that’s great about ultra-wide lenses is they allow you to take longer exposures before star movement becomes visible; this leads to being able to capture more light information and detail in your photo.

    Aperture settings settings to use on Your Camera for Astrophotography?

    Aperture setting is one of the most important parts of knowing the best settings for astrophotography. Normally, the aperture is one of the settings you have to worry about the most when it comes to landscapes. However, with astrophotography, it’s a bit easier since you will always want the widest aperture on your lens (or close to it).

    Aperture settings for astrophotography

    The stars are simply so dim that you need to do everything in your power to capture them as best as possible. Ideally, you would use an aperture of f/2.8 or wider like a lens with a maximum aperture of f/4 that can work in a pinch.
    There are a couple of downsides to using your widest aperture though. The main downside is that you won’t be getting the same level of quality as other photos and foregrounds weren’t really intended for portraits anyway.

    What Shutter speed Settings to use on Your Camera for Astrophotography?

    Your shutter speed determines how much of the light in your nighttime photo will show, as well as how much movement there is in the stars.

    Shutter speed settings for astrophotography

    The stars will move faster across the sky than you might think. Although it would be nice to use multiple-minute exposures of the Milky Way in order to recapture as much light as possible, you are really confined to shorter shutter speeds if you want crisp pictures (and if you don’t use an equatorial mount).

    Why does shutter speed matter when we talk about the best settings for astrophotography you may ask? A camera’s shutter speed determines how fast an image is captured. It also affects the amount of motion blur in a photo, so you’ll need to experiment with different shutter speeds to find the perfect one for your particular shooting situation.

    The first thing to know about photographing stars is the lens you use. A wider lens will allow you to use a longer shutter speed. A second factor is your direction since stars rotate more slowly as you get closer to Celestial North and Celestial South.

    For example, some photographers prefer to shoot with faster shutter speeds because they don’t want any blurriness in their photos. Others can make a slightly blurry photo work better for them, which enables them to go with slower shutter speeds and longer exposure times.

    However, photographs of stars work best when the shutter speeds are short. Once the star has traveled completely out of its original position, a longer shutter speed won’t make it any brighter (other than creating an artificial illusion of brightness due to its larger size). The reason for this is that many astronomers want to shoot as many dim stars as possible. This means you can’t rely on long shutter speeds because the bright background light from light pollution would cause those stars to be obscured.

    For most nighttime photography, your best shutter speed will be somewhere between 10-20 seconds, with potentially longer or shorter shutter speeds depending on your situation. Personally, I’ve found that 20 or 25 seconds works for my 14-24mm lens and more images than not. But it could vary from image to image.

    One way to eliminate blurry images of stars is to try something and see what happens. Take a couple of test photos to make sure you’re comfortable with how much blurring there is and then move on to the design work instead. There’s no need to get too technical. Some calculations can help you determine the optimal shutter speed – some are quite accurate, taking direction into account- but it’s often easier just to guess and see what you get. (Compiling this for long panoramas that cross large swaths of the sky gets complicated though.)

    What ISO Settings to Use on Your Camera for Astrophotography?

    iso settings for astrophotography

    ISO setting is another integral part of knowing the best settings for astrophotography. Choosing the perfect ISO to maximize image quality can be a difficult decision for photographers and that’s also true with Milky Way photography. There are two schools of thought:

    • You should shoot at the ISO that will get you the photo you want – usually in the range of 1600 to 6400 because it’s so dark at night.
    • You should shoot at the ISO that will prevent stars from “blowing out” – usually in the range of 100 to 400. It’s best to do what you would expect and shoot at a high ISO for nighttime photography.

    However, although it might sound crazy, there are some cases where a Milky Way photo could be shot at base ISO (resulting in a very dark photo) instead and brightened in post-production.

    I’m including this paragraph about stars because some readers may be interested to know how to capture them with better color detail. For example, some cameras–those close to ISO invariant–perform similarly at different ISOs. (This means that if you shoot at a high ISO in-camera and brighten the image later in editing software, the quality won’t suffer.)

    Other Settings settings to use on Your Camera for Astrophotography?

    Although there are other camera settings that will impact astrophotography, those are the most important. Shooting in RAW is one of the most important settings for any nighttime photography. It will give you higher quality images even if you’re shooting JPEGs or have your camera set up to automatically save to JPG. If you haven’t been doing that, we highly suggest reading our article on RAW vs JPEG to learn more about why it’s so vital.

    However, some behind-the-scenes settings still affect RAW photos, including one made for astrophotography: long exposure noise reduction. This option takes two photos, the first of the scene in front of you and then a “dark frame” with nothing inside. The second photo may appear empty but it has noise and hot pixels that are similar to those in your original photo. Your camera will subtract the dark frame from the first photo which results in a much cleaner image.

    It might sound like a good idea to use long exposure noise reduction, but it does impact RAW images. It also doubles the amount of time spent taking each photo – which can be bad for those who don’t have a lot of spare time. Some photographers capture dark frames themselves and do the noise reduction later on. Others will keep it off completely. No matter what you choose, it helps to know that a long-exposure noise reduction is an option.

    Now that you know the most important camera settings, the only thing left to do is focus properly and shoot in RAW. From there, all you need to worry about is the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO – which isn’t too complicated. And now that you’ve got a good composition down, we can move on to more advanced techniques for photo editing.


    With the right settings, your camera can take some amazing astrophotography. We hope that our tips have helped you figure out how to set your camera for astrophotography and get some great shots of the night sky. If you need help finding the perfect setting for your camera, check out our selection of astrophotography cameras and find the perfect one for your needs.