Supermoon Weekend - Tips, Resources and Inspiration

June 22, 2013  •  Leave a Comment


With supermoon (aka perigee moon) weekend upon us I know that there will be tons of people dusting off their cameras and heading out to get some shots of this celestial event.  

The "Supermoon" of March 19, 2011 (right), compared to a rather "average" moon of December 20, 2010 (left)

supermoon (plural supermoons)

  1. full moon or new moon, when the Earth-Moon distance is in the lowest tenth of its range
    (Picture and definition taken from

(Click here to head over to to see exactly when the moonrise and moonset is for your area)

Basically when the full moon happens when the moon is at it's closest to the Earth.  Because it is closer to us it can appear up to 14% larger and up to 30% brighter than normal.  If that doesn't sound like it would be that noticeable you should take a look outside tonight because it will be noticeably brighter.  I'm talking REALLY bright.  It was bright enough to be rather distracting to the group of photographer friends and I who had originally got together to experiment with some sparklers art last night, but as soon as the moon poked up over the tree line everyone immediately was grabbing their tripod and moving to get a better angle.  It was a pretty cool experience, we all had a blast and I ate WAY too many smores so it was a good night all round.

Okay so now we know what the supermoon is, we know it's very distracting to photographers (hahaha) we need to know how to photograph it!  Here are some great tips I have found from around the web as well as a link to my Supermoon board over at Pinterest for some great ideas on how to use the supermoon to make some great memories.

Tips to make your moon shoot a success

  • Don't forget to clean off your memory card and make sure your batteries are charged beforehand.  Few things are as heartbreaking as hiking twenty minutes to that perfect location and realizing you forgot your memory card in your computer at home, or you forgot to charge you batteries.  Trust me - I have been there!
  • Bring a tripod - A tripod is your best friend for night shoots and low light situations.  Even though the moon seems like it is putting off a ton of light and you won't need a tripod don't be fooled.  How your eye sees light and how your camera sees light is VERY different so bring your tripod to make sure you get the clearest possible shots that you can.
  • If you have a shutter timer on your camera (and most do) use it!   Even with a tripod pushing the shutter button on your camera can still produce a slight shake to your images.  Using a shutter timer tells the camera X number of second after I press the button take the picture (I generally use 2 seconds on my camera).  Check your camera manual to find out how to do this on your specific model.  Lost your camera manual?  Click here to search for your specific camera model - it's a great resource to use!
  • Flashlight (Always a good thing to have on night shoots)
  • Lens Hood - If you have a lens hood for your lens use it to keep surrounding light from flaring your images (flashlights and people who can't stop checking their phones near your lens are horrible for night shoots).

Suggested Camera Settings.  Keep in mind these are only to get you in the ballpark and you will need to do some fiddling to get the result you are looking for, but this should help save you some time getting started.  If you aren't sure what a particular item is click it to see a great article over at to read more about it.  The first step is to set your camera to MANUAL mode

  1. Use a long lens.  I will be using my normal 70-200 kit lens for this year's supermoon.  
  2. Manually focus your camera - DO NOT use autofocus!  Autofocus is not a fan at all of unusual light conditions and this shoot will be no exception.  For SLR cameras check your manual on how to switch your camera to manual mode, turn your focus ring all the way to the infinity setting as a starting point.  For compact point and shoot cameras you will need to check your owner's manual to find the landscape mode (usually a mountain on the dial).
  3. ISO - Set your ISO as low as it will go (generally 100, though some cameras go lower).  This will reduce the noise you see in your images.
  4. Shutter Speed - Since the moon is so much brighter than usual we will need to use a faster than usual shutter speed.  I start at 1/125 and then if need be move my way down towards the slower shutter speeds as needed (1/60, 1/30, etc).   This will vary greatly depending on your camera and lens so keep experimenting till you get the desired result.  Remember - if the moon is too bright use a faster shutter speed (1/125, 1/250, etc.) to limit the amount of light you have coming in.  If it is too dark slow the shutter down and try again to let more light in.
  5. Aperture - I have seen posts both ways on this, but personally I like to set my aperture at F8 to make sure I can get plenty of detail in my shots.  If you open your aperture up to say F2.8 you will be letting in a LOT more light, but it will also be a tougher to get anything else in your shots so start at F8 and play around.  (Keep in mind that unless you have a prime lens your aperture will be different zoomed all the way out than it will zoomed in.  This will affect your pictures so if you wonder why your pictures change when you zoom that's why!)

Once you find a spot to shoot here is a quick checklist to get you started:

  1. Get your tripod set up, camera attached solidly and lens hood on.  Make sure it is set up somewhere solid - you don't want your camera and tripod falling over!
  2. Set your ISO to 100, Shutter speed to 1/125 and Aperture to F8.
  3. Line up your shot and get it focused in.
  4. Either use a cable release for your shutter if you have one, or set your camera time to something like two seconds and take your first shot.
  5. View your image on the back of your camera.  If you are too bright adjust your shutter to a faster speed and try again, if too dark drop your shutter speed down one stop and give ti another shot (no pun intended).
  6. Have fun!  Remember that rules are meant to be broken and once you get a feel for how your camera settings affect your picture start playing around with it and have some fun.
  7. When packing up make sure to take your flashlight and do a thorough sweep of the area before you leave.  It is extremely easy for something to fall out of your camera bag and get lost as you are setting up.  Don't have a flashlight?  Not problem download this great app for your iPhone - I use it all the time!

If you need inspiration for cool supermoon pictures head on over to my Pinterest board to see what other people have done when shooting the moon.  Another cool article on the Supermoon is over at The Huffington Post.

Thanks for taking the time to check this out and I hope it helps in your shoots.  I look forward to seeing what you all come up with so feel free to find me on Facebook and keep in touch.

If you would like to request information or to book me for a shoot feel free to Contact me, I would love to hear from you!

Wesley Smith
Portrait Artist
Wesley Smith Photography
[email protected]


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