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How To Take A Photo With A Smartphone This Weekend

The first of four consecutive supermoons in 2023 will rise this weekend as the “Super Buck Moon” lights-up the sky.

Full on Monday, July 3, it will be best viewed at moonrise—close to sunset—where you are on the evening of Sunday, July 2. However, this full moon is one of the lowest-hanging of the year as seen from the northern hemisphere, so it will be relatively easy to see and photograph in the south all night before it sets in the southwest close to sunrise.

Social media is sure to be awash with images of the full moon, so here’s everything you need to know to image the full moon with a smartphone:

1. Be In Position At Moonrise

The best time to capture a full supermoon is at at moonrise, which only only one night each month is close to sunset. “”Fiery skies, golden tones and interesting cloud formations can make for an interesting backdrop, and it’s easier to control exposure when light levels are higher, particularly when using a smartphone,” said professional photographer Mark Lord in an email. The moon will appear as a muted orange orb in the east before becoming a brighter yellow, then a very bright white as it rises higher into the sky—so catch it as close to the horizon as you can.

2. Use A Tripod

Although it’s possible to get away without one—by leaning a smartphone on a window ledge or wall and holding it very still—a small smartphone tripod is inexpensive and makes it much easier to get a sharp image. That’s because slightly slower shutter speeds are crucial for a clear image, but even miniscule movement will accentuate blur.

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3. Use The ‘Moon Illusion’

The sun and moon are tiny, occupying just half a degree of the sky, yet they look larger to the human brain when they’re placed next to something. This is the ‘moon illusion’ and it’s responsible for the full moon looking large when viewed next to buildings, trees, mountains or rocks in the foreground. In practice it’s more important than the roughly 7%-larger-looking supermoon (which this month is slightly closer to Earth than on average). “I recommend choosing a landmark or natural feature to focus on in the foreground or taking your picture when the moon is close to the horizon,” said Lord. “This shows a sense of scale.”

4. Don’t Zoom

The supermoon is a long way from you—exactly 361,934 kilometers, in fact—and smartphones are not built to zoom. “Trying to zoom in on an object, particularly one as far away as the moon, may compromise the resolution and quality of an image,” said Lord. That’s because smartphones induge inly in digital zoom, which is essentially cropping the image your see on your smartphone’s screen. “Take a landscape-style photo, adding depth and variety by making use of objects and landmarks in the foreground.,” said Lord. “A full moon captured through tree branches, for example, can make for a very spooky and atmospheric image.”

5. Be Creative

A close-up image of the full moon taken through a telescope or a camera with a long lens isn’t something that can easily be done using a smartphone, but in any case this is a chance to experiment, not replicate the photos taken by others. “Creativity is key,” said Lord. “Ask another person to stand in the foreground of your photo, or position yourself in front of a photogenic tree or building.” Lord says that church silhouettes can make for a fantastic gothic image. Other creative approaches could include moonlight reflecting in a lakes (or even a puddle) or the full moon between two tall buildings.

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6. Use High Dynamic Range

The iPhone automatically uses HDR, though one some oder models you have to enable ‘smart HDR’ in the settings. It’s basically a way of making the darker areas of your image standout, which works well for a full moonrise and generally makes the image more appealing.

7. Experiment With Settings

Put an iPhone into Night Mode and it will do it’s own thing. For the most part that’s fine, but since the full moon is very bright you may find you can use the default Photo mode. If you can, focus-lock on the moon (rather than the surrounding scene) by pressing your finger on the screen for a second. Then move the brightness cursor up and down to find the exposure you want for both the moon and the environment. Or you can control it manually, experimenting with a low ISO and experimenting with the shutter speed to get the effect you want. “ISO helps to dictate image brightness, in combination with shutter speed and f/stop,” said Lord, who recommends ISO 100 to prevent the moon from appearing too brightly in your picture. “When it’s dark, the shutter speed should typically be lowered to allow more light to reach your camera’s sensor,” he added, saying that experimenting with shutter speeds is the way to go.

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.


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