Spectacular Night Skies

When it comes to photographing the night sky, one of the main challenges is calculating your exposure and timings.

In this photography class, Karl shows you how to photograph the night sky. He explains how to expose the image, how he frames the shot beforehand and also how to avoid camera shake during long exposures. He also shares some useful tips for adding subtle amounts of light that can enhance your image.

In this class:

  • Night photography
  • How to photograph the milky way
  • Camera settings for night photography
  • How to avoid camera shake during long exposures

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.


  1. Hi Karl,
    Since you are using aperture of f2, where did you focus so that you can get sufficent details in the foreground and background ?
    Thank you

    1. Hi, it was approximately 10m past the tree, to give me enough DOF for the tree but this would not allow me to reach infinity for the stars however I felt they were clear enough. Unfortunately at f2 and needing the light, decisions on the best options for the image have to be made.

  2. I have difficulty focusing it right (my eye are not good either), and setting the lens at infinity is not 100% sharp to all lens, what is the best thing to do except setting the focus in day light.

    thank you Karl.

    1. That’s a tricky one as often there is nothing to autofocus on (except the moon) so it may be best to take a test shoot and zoom in on the LCD screen to see if it’s in focus and then adjust and test again etc.

    1. Hi Mohammad, at the time of this shoot I was using a Hasselblad with a CCD type sensor and they are not good with high ISO or long exposures. Now I’m using the H6 which has a CMOS type sensor and is excellent at high ISO and long exposures.

  3. Hi Karl,

    In reality at that time, the stars were visible? or I’ll have just to try that even if they were not visible? Thanks.

  4. Hi Carl,

    Why were you whispering? Didn’t want to wake up the Joshua tree? LOL.
    Excellent class. Looking forward to doing something similar.

    1. Ha Ha that seems like a good point, but it was the middle of the night and there were some people camping near by! 🙂

  5. Hey KARL you got me totally hooked now and tried this shot and so almost impossible!! I use Nikon D750 with F2.8 70-200mm lens and as it was so dark the lens would not shoot as it had no focus point as i could not see one in the dark!! hahahahahah . ok i know, totally screwed up teacher, but what did i need to do? I tried taking off auto focus, and that was even worse!! HELP!!!! hahahahah Thanks Karl, your my inspiraton of getting it right!


    1. Hi Andrew, first of all you need to think about using a wider angle lens, maybe a 24mm or up to 35mm to get more sky in. Then focus on something about 30m-50m away. Then switch and lock it to manual focus, then frame up your sky and maybe a terrestial object in the shot too (tree or something) and then off you go. Try 30 seconds at f4 on 3200 ISO as a starting point and work from there.

  6. Question, you would not use the first pic you took because there’s some light from video man pollute the image a little bit, right?

    1. Hi Devel, the answer would and should only be; Does the light from the video man make the picture worse or does it help the picture better?

  7. Hello Karl, spectacular. Please tell me what parts of the image were illuminated with the faint light. Both rocks and the tree?

    1. Hi Bogdan, both the rock and the trees were illuminated using the faint light, without the faint light these elements would only be a silhouette.

    2. Hi Bogdan, both the rock and the trees were illuminated using the faint light, without the faint light these elements would only be a silhouette.

  8. Very nice results!
    When I see the two pictures , I see that one has a lot more stars in it. What was the key difference of the two shots that made that possible? Later in the night?

    1. Hi Jacques, yes later in the night, and or higher ISO or larger aperture. If you go to long on the shutter speed then the stars will streak (unless they are being tracked and then the ground stuff would streak!)

  9. Karl, you say you were shooting at F2, but your “Equipment” section says 16-35mm F2.8 lens. What lens were you using for the F2 aperture, or did you not list the lens used for F2?

    1. I re-watched, and I guess my question is, what 24mm F1.4 lens were you using? It’s not listed in th e”Equipment list.” Thanks!

      1. Hi Randy, sorry must of missed it, yes Karl is shooting with the 24mm when it gets dark and the 16-35mm in the day, I’ve updated the equipment list, thanks for the heads up

  10. Hi Karl. Just a question. What is your tip for taking wedding pictures under a night sky ? In fact I want to mix the results of your courses “fashion location flash” and “spectacular night skies”.

    1. Hi Phillipe the first thing you need to consider is the logic of what you are doing: 1. A night sky picture requires an exposure of about 30 seconds at f2.0 at a relatviely high ISO. Then your wedding couple will require flash exposure to illuminate them correctly, this flash exposure will likely need to be low in power because you are shooting at high ISO and a large aperture. The next problem is that you need to make sure the couple remain perfectly still for the 30 seconds of night sky exposure as the flash will only be at the start or the end of the exposure. As you will likely be shooting on a wide angle lens to capture the sky then any slight movement shouldn’t be too noticeable. So you will need to do a test exposure for the sky first and then manually adjust your flash power to suit.

    1. Hi Edward, I set it on the tree as this was the main point of interest. Usually on wide angle lenses at a certain depth of focus into the photograph then it also almost reaches infinity, this is due to wide angle lenses naturally having a greater depth of field.

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