Astrophotography 101: A Lesson Series on Photographing the Milky Way

Welcome to Astrophotography 101: A Lesson Series on Photographing the Milky Way by Lonely Speck’s creators Ian Norman and Diana Southern.

Just getting started?

Check out our lesson on How to Photograph the Milky Way first, and watch our video On Photographing the Milky Way for a little inspiration.

What is Astrophotography 101?

Astrophotography 101 is a class for everyone. It is series of online posts and video lessons on how to photograph the Milky Way without expensive equipment. If you already own a digital SLR and a tripod, you already have the most expensive things you’ll need for these lessons. We’ll cover everything that you will need to make your very first astrophotos, and then we’ll dive deeper into the finer (and funner) techniques to make some truly amazing photographs.

Building from our original How to Photograph the Milky Way post, Astrophotography 101 will provide a more complete and detailed guide on astrophotography with a special emphasis on helping beginners and seasoned photographers alike.

The Lessons

Astrophotography 101 is a work in progress. Lessons that are currently available can be accessed via the links below, and new lessons will be sent out to Lonely Speck subscribers as they become available.

The lessons are listed in no particular order but are categorized into sections — Inspiration, Equipment, Shooting, Post Processing, and Advanced Topics — so that you can learn more about the subjects that interest you most.

Lessons will also be updated over time with new and refreshed content to improve the learning experience. We’re also open to suggestions: if there’s something that you want us to write about or show you, tell us in the comments below or email us and we’ll try to add it to the list.

We hope you enjoy learning how to photograph the Milky Way with us!



Post Processing

Advanced Topics



Astrophotography 101 is completely free for everyone. All of the lessons will live here on Lonely Speck for you to access at any time. Enter your email and whenever we post a new lesson you’ll receive it in your inbox. We won’t spam you and your email will stay secure. Furthermore, updates will be sent out only periodically, less than once per week.


What is Astrophotography?

There are many different genres of photography. Portrait photography, street photography, landscape, nature, macro… the list goes on. If portrait photography is the art of making photos of people, astrophotography is the art of making photos of the night sky. Astrophotography isn’t a new genre of photography, but until recently it has been a rather obscure one. It used to be confined to a subset of the astronomy community, so when most people think of astrophotography, they used to think of a camera pointed through an expensive telescope, maybe on a computer controlled mount with an autoguider, and hours and hours of exposure data. It used to be a form of photography that was only possible with expensive equipment and technical expertise.

The Constellation Orion shot with a Canon 6D and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Lens
The Constellation Orion shot with a Canon 6D and Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Lens

Now astrophotography is more accessible than ever. The technology has improved, the equipment is cheaper and the community has grown. To get started all you really need is a decent digital camera with manual controls and a tripod. Making your first images of the Milky Way may forever change the way you look at photography and the universe around you. Astrophotography is about capturing the beauty of the vast and mysterious universe we are a part of from the comfort of the precious planet that we all share.

Few experiences have impacted our lives as much as astrophotography, and we want to share a little bit of that experience with you here.

The Milky Way Galactic Center from Joshua Tree National Park, California


Astrophotography 101 works both ways. We hope to hear from you as much as you from us. If you want a critique on your shot or wish to share your results, have a question or want to suggest something, you can check out the small (but growing) Lonely Speck Flickr Group where other photographers like you can share and learn from each other. There are already some amazing photographs in the community, all that’s missing are yours!

lonely speck flickr group

If you have a general comment about the Astrophotography 101, feel free to throw it in the comments below.


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Help us help you!

Believe it or not, Lonely Speck is my full-time job. It’s been an amazing experience for us to see a community develop around learning astrophotography and we’re so happy to be a small part of it. I have learned that amazing things happen when you ask for help so remember that we are always here for you. If you have any questions about photography or just want to share a story, contact us! If you find the articles here helpful, consider helping us out with a donation.

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Thanks so much for being a part of our astrophotography adventure.

-Ian and Diana

106 Replies to “Astrophotography 101: A Lesson Series on Photographing the Milky Way”

  1. Hi,
    I am also looking forward to learn about astrophotography too. Just a question… Do you think Canon 6D Mark ii is right camera for a beginner?
    thank you

  2. Hey Ian and Diana,

    You really got me hooked on astrophotography – especially the galactic center. I’m working to get something I can really be proud of, but I’m running into a lot of setbacks. Can you help? Please?

    I have a Samsung Galaxy S7 with the Camera FZ app. But I can’t seem to get the three variables under control – ISO, shutter speed and F stop. On my phone, I can control Fstop and ISO but cant get a shutter speed longer than 10 s, even though my users guide says it can go as high as I need it.

    Any suggestions? Should I be thinking on a different camera on my next go-round?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. You actually got me started on this and I really want to do it.

  3. We just bought a Mamiya NC1000 and a NC1000S with a bunch of lenses. Our next challenge is to capture the milky way on film! Thanks for you clear story and tips

  4. Here are most of the tools I have to work with: an iPhone XR, a 2018 MacBook Pro with the latest operating system, a set of Moment lenses for my iPhone XR, a Kenko Lens2Scope Adapter for Canon EF Mount Lenses – Angled Eyepiece, a Canon Zoom Lens EF 70-200mm 1:4 L, a Celestron Nexstar 130SLT Telescope, a Celestron NexYZ 3-Axis Universal Smartphone Adapter, PhotoPills, Luminar 3, Affinity Photo, a number of other camera and editing apps for my iPhone XR, and an interest in night-time photography. My 12 year old Canon DSLR is worn out and I intentionally will not replace it.

    If you can make a Silk Purse out of a Sow’s Ear then I will be happy to help support this fabulous website. I discovered it accidentally from another website, and I don’t understand why Google and DuckDuckGo are unaware of it. Do a Google or DuckDuckGo search for astrophotography and see where falls in their search lists. There are ways to move your website up in these lists, and you may want to check them out.

    1. I’ve just bought a canon 1300d. It’s in great condition hardly used, however, I’m super keen to do some astrophotography with it, any pointers, I have a 50mm lens on it, it also came with a 70mm to 210mm

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