11 tips to capture perfect pictures of Sunday's supermoon eclipse

This weekend a supermoon will coincide with a total lunar eclipse, making the blood-red spectacle appear bigger and brighter than usual, according to NASA.

The eclipse will start Sunday night at 10:11 p.m. EDT, peak around 10:47 p.m. EDT, and last until 11:23 p.m. EDT.

This kind of event won’t happen again until 2033, so you might feel the urge to take some photos.

Bill Ingalls — a senior photographer for NASA — is a pro at photographing the moon, as you can see in these pictures. And in anticipation of this weekend’s celestial event, he’s shared some basic advice for photographers who want to capture the rare “super blood moon” on camera.

Scroll down to see Ingalls’ tips, plus a few others we’ve rounded up to help you record the rare astronomical event in all its glory.

1. Scout out a location ahead of time.

You'll need a good angle to capture the tiny moon in the sky, according to NASA photographer Bill Ingalls. Sometimes he uses Google Maps or a compass to plot out the perfect spot.

Ingalls uses these tools to map out where the moon will appear in the sky, but you can look up that information for your location on TimeAndDate.com under 'moon azimuth.'

3. Use a good reference point.

'Don't make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself with no reference to anything,' Ingalls said in a NASA report. A floating orb in the blackness, all by itself, does not look very interesting. Something in the foreground, like a building or a tree, will help for size comparison.

4. Use a telephoto lens if you can.

You need a high-quality lens with a long focal length if you the moon to look bigger than a tiny blob in your photos. If you don't own a telephoto lens, you can always borrow one from a friend or rent one from a photography store.

A lens with a 300mm focal length is a good place to start, but even larger lenses will increase the moon's size in your photos. (You can get a better idea of a good lens length from this discussion on this Sttack Exchange photography forum.)

5. If you're newer to photography, put your camera in daylight mode.

The moon reflects sunlight, and it's going to appear up to 30% brighter than usual on Sunday in its supermoon phase, according to NASA. With all that moonlight, the exposure will look better if you shoot it in daylight white balance mode, according to Ingalls.

If you're more experienced with photography, you may want to plan on manual exposure settings.

The eclipse will happen in two stages: a partial eclipse, where the moon is only partly in Earth's shadow, and a total eclipse, where it will be directly behind the Earth. You'll have to adjust your camera for both stages.

During the partial eclipse phase, the moon will appear fairly bright. So you'll probably want to use a lower ISO setting (which will make your camera less sensitive to light) and short exposure time (which will only let a little light into the camera), according to Universe Today.

A higher ISO (more sensitive to light) and longer exposure time (more light into the camera) will be better during the full eclipse, when the moon will appear dimmer.

6. Don't forget that the moon is a moving target.

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The shutter speed on your camera may need to be faster than you realise, Ingalls said. Your camera needs to snap the picture faster if an object is moving, or it will turn out blurry.

7. Takes lots and lots and lots of photos.

Your best bet for capturing a really great photo is to take tons of photos at different angles and exposures, according to Sky & Telescope magazine.

As the article notes, 'memory cards are cheap compared to the rarity of a total lunar eclipse, so you can hardly go wrong trying every exposure setting you've got.'

1. Panorama mode is your best friend.

Your instinct may be to pinch and zoom in as much as possible on a smartphone -- but that will lead to blurry, pixelated, uninspiring shots. Ingalls says your best bet is to try panorama mode, which will capture a lot of foreground to compare to the moon.

2. Use auto-white balance and exposure features.


With some smartphone models, you can take advantage of auto-white balance and exposure features by tapping the screen of your phone when it's in camera mode. Touching bright or areas, like the moon, will help you get the best brightness and colour settings.

4. Remember to put the camera down at some point and just enjoy the view.

You can use this calculator from TimeAndDate.com to look up the exact time when the supermoon total lunar eclipse will happen in your area.

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