Humans have always been fascinated by the never-ending space and everything that was a part of it. Right from the twinkling stars to the flying comets, just about everything stimulated our thoughts on what lies beyond home; beyond Earth. This is what led humans to develop instruments to see space more clearly than we could with our naked eyes. Today, humans have not only developed telescopes but also cameras that are capable of peeking into planets and galaxies, thousands of light years away!   Traditionally, such equipment has always been out of reach for the common man. But fortunately, progress and innovation in smartphone lenses have now enabled shooting the Milky Way right from your phone! But of course, shooting these stars is not everyone’s cup of tea. It takes time, patience, knowledge, the right execution and post-processing before you can lay your hands on a respectable picture of the space.   So if you’re interested in astrophotography or just want to try shooting the stars for kicks, here are some tips that’ll help you through this exciting experience.  

Get a Tripod

If you’re really keen on shooting the night sky with your phone, a tripod is something you’ll have to invest in. It’s really difficult to hold your hands still for a long duration, which, unfortunately, is required for such shots. Getting a tripod will reduce shakiness and blur that you’d otherwise get if you held the phone in your hand.

Use the Right App

Most phones nowadays have support for manual camera mode within the stock camera application itself. While you can use the manual mode from the stock application itself to achieve the desired result, you can also choose to get specialised camera applications from the app store. iPhone users can make use of Slow Shutter Cam while Android users can give Camera FV-5 a shot. These applications enable ultimate control of your camera, right from shutter speed to ISO levels, which make it easier for you to get the desired shot.   To help frame your shot and find a good cluster of stars or a planet, it’s recommended to download the Star Chart application that will help you find them in night sky via Augmented Reality.

Get out of the city

Most phones nowadays have support for manual camera mode within the stock camera application itself. While you can use the manual mode from the stock application itself to achieve the desired result, you can also choose to get specialised camera applications from the app store. iPhone users can make use of Slow Shutter Cam while Android users can give Camera FV-5 a shot. These applications enable ultimate control of your camera, right from shutter speed to ISO levels, which make it easier for you to get the desired shot.   To help frame your shot and find a good cluster of stars or a planet, it’s recommended to download the Star Chart application that will help you find them in night sky via Augmented Reality.

Get the settings right

While shooting, there are some points that you need to keep in mind. Firstly, never use the flash. Using flash will drown out the faint light of the stars and you’ll end up with nothing but a black image.   Secondly, don’t use the digital zoom. Almost all smartphones today are equipped with digital zoom. While it proves to be useful for taking pictures in daylight, you’ll end up losing a lot of quality while using to capture the space. Thirdly, try not to take the moon in the frame while shooting the stars. Having the moon in the same frame will completely ruin the shot as it’ll outshine the stars and give you a completely white picture.   To get a decent shot, these are the recommended settings you need to follow. Shift to manual focus and set the focus to infinity. Increase the shutter speed to about 8-10 seconds which help you capture more light. Change the ISO levels to 800-1600, depending on how bright the sky is (brighter the sky, lower the ISO). Now, tap the shutter button and wait for the image to process.   Now, these settings may not necessarily work for you as even slightly different scenarios can give different results. So you’ll have to stick to the basics and keep tweaking the settings here and there to get the image you desire. But trust me when I say this, all the efforts will be worth it when you finally get the shot.

Post-processing to the rescue

If you follow the above process, you might just end up with a decent picture. But if you truly want to unlock the potential of the image you just clicked, some post-processing on image editing applications like Photoshop and Snapseed can do wonders. Tweak with settings like brightness, contrast, saturation and temperature of the photos to bring out hidden details and make the picture look better.   Quick Tip: Phones with larger aperture size, such as the Galaxy S10 or the iPhone XS are able to capture a lot more light than most other phones. These make them even better for astrophotography. Like this article? Also read: World Photography Day: Two Photographers talk about the art of portrait photography Image Courtesy: Shutterstock

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