One of the most intimidating things about getting into astrophotography is the cost. It’s been said many a time that Astrophotography is a ‘rich mans game’, which can be extremely daunting if you’re not willing to part with a ton of cash to get start.
And whilst expert astronomy is expensive and telescopes can set you back thousands of dollars, that doesn’t mean that we can’t get involved in astrophotography too. In fact, I’d recommend starting using an iPhone before you invest into using a camera to see if you enjoy it. then, you can consider investing in other equipment – but even then, it doesn’t need to be expensive.
Before you get started, there are some things that you’re going to need to get if you want to partake in iPhone astrophotography. Obviously not all of them are necessary at first and you can get started with just an iPhone. But, there are some attachments and bits and bobs that you’ll want to consider getting if you want to take better more in depth photos.
Things you’ll need for iPhone astrophotography
Astrophotography doesn’t have to be difficult. The iPhone can be used to capture decent photos of the Moon and other celestial objects. iPhone astrophotography doesn’t have to cost a lot either; you probably already own most of what you need for iPhone astrophotography.
Now, don’t expect iPhone astrophotos to win any awards for aesthetics. The iPhone camera is designed to take pictures of people in good lighting conditions—astrophotography rules are completely different, but the key steps towards taking iPhone Astrophotos that aren’t horrible are the same as those required for any kind of photography: proper composition and focus. Doing your homework will help too!
In this article I’m going to share iPhone astrophotography tips that I’ve learned over the years that will minimize frustration and maximize the enjoyment you get from this wonderful hobby.
- Your iPhone (duh)
- A tripod
- A variety of phone apps
- A low light pollution area
- An adapter (if using with a telescope
If you’re using your phone on it’s own, you’re going to be liable to be a little shaky. There’s a reason that telescopes come with mounts and cameras sometimes need tripods. We need to keep the camera steady so that we can use it properly.
For this, you need to pick yourself up a cheap tripod . You can use this to keep the camera still and ensure it’s not going to shake around – even if you move a little bit, this can have a massive effect on the blur of your resulting image.
If you’re going to be taking pictures with your phone itself, then you’re going to want to download some apps for your phone. My personal favorite to use on my phone is NightCap.
NightCap gives you the opportunity to actually set your phone up for nighttime photography. Whilst the aperture in the app staying the same, you’ll be able to adjust other settings like your ISO and your focal length within the app (if you don’y know what these terms mean, check out my astrophotography settings guide).
There are a ton of other features on the Nightcap app that you can use too, including a star trail mode, a metor mode and even an aurora mode. For amateur astronomers, these can be fun to play around with to get a idea of what customization settings can do.
Along with Nightcap, I’d advise that you download a few other applications too. This is including one that will help you track the weather in your nearby area, as this is of the utmost importance for night sky photography. The fact of the matter is that if you’ve got a heavily light polluted sky, you’re going to struggle with getting any good photographs.
iPhone Astrophotography with a telescope
If you’re willing to take things to the next level and purchase yourself a cheap telescope, then this opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. Whilst buying astrophotography equipment can be particularly expensive, then telescope is not usually the most expensive part. Often, the expensive comes in the camera and the mount being used, which can run upwards of a thousand dollars very easily.
No, I’m not suggesting that you spend that kind of cash! Instead, I’m suggesting that to get started, pick your up cheap telescope if you haven’t got one already. Then, head over to Amazon and purchase yourself a cheap phone adapter that will easily allow you to attach your phone camera to your telescope. The instructions are pretty easy to follow to attach it to your phone.
From here, you should be able to get a good view of what your telescope is seeing through the eyepiece. Of course, you’re going to want to look through the telescope first to get a good idea of what exactly it is that you’re looking for!
Is it as clear of an image as you’re going to get from using a professional telescope and an astrophotography camera? No. But is it an impressive alternative seeing as you basically stuck an iPhone to the end of your telescope? Heck yeah.
If you’re using a telescope with your iPhone too, then you can also considering getting yourself a set of moon filters and colored filters, This can help make your images look a lot more fun, but be sure to use them with the correct filter.
Finding your target
Identifying what exactly it is you’re going to be photographing is another important step that you’ll need to take if you’re taking pictures of the night sky. For beginners, you’re best off targeting the moon with a wide angle photo. This is because the moon is often prevalent, but in reality you want to do this before the dark of night (sunset is best).
If you’re using the NightCap app I suggested, you can play around with start trailers and aurora, too.
Editing your images
Once you’ve found your target and got your photographs, you’ll want to consider editing your photos at the final stage. There’s a ton of astrophotography software online that can help you do this, but my ultimate favorite for beginners is
Why aren’t mobile cameras as good as DSLRs?
The reality is that you’re never going to get as good of a picture with a mobile camera as you can with a DSLR. This is because the sensor size in your mobile camera is a lot smaller than the sensor that you’ll find in a DSLR, whether it’s APS-C or full frame. This means that your mobile camera isn’t going to get as much light, which in turn means that you’re not going to get as good of a picture.
Will Mobiles get better?
Undoubtedly yes, and it’s an inevitability that eventually the smartphone will overtake the DSLR completely. This isn’t in the near future, but already we’re seeing such dramatic increases in sensor size and quality in general that it can be assumed that the phone cameras in 5-10 years will be equivalent to budget DSLRs today.
Hopefully, this helps to prove that you don’t necessarily need to pay out money for an expensive set up. Of course, you’re not going to get the same quality of photographs but for beginners, this is an awesome way to get started. Plus, you don’t have to worry about carrying a ton of expensive stuff around with you all the time, so that’s another reason why you might want to consider iPhone astrophotography.
Of course, this can be adapted to any phone and you’re going to find very similar apps if you’re using android – there’s always an equivalent. So no matter what type of phone that you’re using, you’re going to find a way to partake in astrophotography and get some awesome pictures.
Last update on 2021-08-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API