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, Ian! I’m about to shop a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM for my Nikon D7200 It’s gonna be a good lens to capture the milky way? Thanks!

  2. 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!


    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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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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