Astrophotography 101: A Lesson Series on Photographing the Milky Way

Welcome to Astrophotography 101: A Lesson Series on Photographing the Milky Way.

The Lessons

Astrophotography 101 is currently a work in progress. All the lessons will be sent out to subscribers and posted on the Lonely Speck blog and will ultimately be accessible from this page.  Below are all of the current and future lessons planned for Astrophotography 101, in no particular order. Many of them have not yet been written and the overall syllabus may change over time. 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.

Just getting started? Check out our How to Photograph the Milky Way article first.

Inspiration

Equipment

Shooting

Post Processing

Advanced Topics

Subscribe

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 my life as much as astrophotography and I want to hopefully share a little bit of that experience with you here.

What is Astrophotography 101?

Astrophotography 101 is a class for everyone. It is series of online posts and video lessons on how 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 this class. 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 my 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.

medium-format-astrophotography-4
The Milky Way Galactic Center from Joshua Tree National Park, California

Feedback

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 class, feel free to throw it in the comments below.

Disclosure

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. We are also a participant in the B&H Affiliate Program which also allows us to earn fees by linking to bhphotovideo.com.

Learn Astrophotography

Astrophotography 101 is completely free for everyone. All of the lessons are available on the Lonely Speck Astrophotography 101 page 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, usually less than once per week.

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.

Donate

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

-Ian

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

  1. Hello Ian,

    You mentioned the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.1 in your Sony A7S article. I have tried to look through your entire website but looks like there is test reports on what you think of this lens. Should I go for the Sony 55mm f/1.8 or should I go for this Voigtlander?

    Meanwhile, for deep sky astrophotography, which fast telephoto lens would you recommend on the Sony A7S? Thanks for your help in advance!

    Best/Edwin

    1. Go with the Sony 55/1.8. that’s what I use now and it’s actually much better than the Voigtlander. The Voigtlander has some poor corner performance. For the price and the weight, the Sony Zeiss is a great lens. Probably my favorite 50mm-ish lens.

      I haven’t done much deep-sky stuff but I’m looking at just getting a 70-200/2.8 to start it off. I’ll post more about it when I drop $$ to make it happen. In the medium range, there’s also the Rokinon 85mm/1.4 that I’ve been eyeing. It’s super cheap and should work pretty well.

  2. Hi Ian:
    Thanks for all the useful information and presets. I just started using them. My camera is a Nikon D5500 with the kit 18-55 lens. Hope to upgrade to a Roknon 14mm 2.8 soon. Did some shooting of the milky way the other night @ 15 sec iso 3200 18mm f3.5. Images came out with a lot of noise. I’ll try a lower iso when the clouds go away. PP with LRcc. I hope to be able to print up to about 18 x 26, but it’s out of the question unless I get the noise level down.
    My question is: Is there any realistic way of simulating on my monitor what a print of that size would look like (resolution wise)? It’s a 30 minute round trip to the nearest photo print kiosk and they only do up to 8 x 10.

  3. Hello Ian, I am new at astrophotography and researching articles on internet to learn about it. Your article is the best i think. They are all helpful and understandable for me. Thank you very much for your sharings. I have Canon 5d Mark iii but I want to buy fujifilm X-PRO2 or X-T1. Which one should i prefer? In one of your article you suggest X-T1. What are you thinking about X-PRO2?

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