Beginners Gear Guide for Anyone Who Wants to Try Astrophotography

Guest writer Mike Benton

 

Astrophotography is a type of photography that has become really popular over the past decade, probably because of the beautiful images that it can be used to capture. Yet, it always looks ridiculously difficult from a distance. In reality, the equipment that you need to start doing your own astrophotography can be broken down into a simple guide where less really does equal more. Today we are going to be discussing the essentials.

DSLR Cameras

Most people will already own a DSLR camera of their own, or they might own an interchangeable lens camera. This is a really good thing because, aside from a lens, the camera body is actually the most expensive piece of equipment that you need in order to do astrophotography. The brand of the camera is not too important, but Canon and Nikon are usually good options for people who are new to photography.

The concept of having an interchangeable lens is actually the most important factor. This is because you need to be able to hook the camera up to a telescope directly to do astrophotography. You can also find more information here about the best cameras for astrophotography.

Lenses

Purchasing a new lens is often much more confusing than purchasing an actual camera body because there are so many options out there. When you come to purchase your first lens for astrophotography, you need to remember that The Milky Way is bigger than we can even imagine. The best way to capture it is with a wide angle lens because then you will be able to see a larger area of sky.

If the standard lens that came with your camera was an 18-55mm lens (the standard lens that comes with most cameras), then it should work quite well to start with if you cannot afford to purchase a new lens. Just make sure that you keep it zoomed out all the way to 18mm.

If you can afford to purchase an additional lens, then you should be looking for a lens that features a really low f/number of f/2.8 or less. This is really important because it will enable the camera to collect more light from the night sky and expose stars that would otherwise still be dim.

Tripod

You might think that the camera and lens that we have already mentioned are the most important parts of an astrophotography kit. But, in reality, the tripod is the piece of equipment that steals the show. It is an essential part of any astrophotography kit.

When you come to choose a tripod, you should make sure that it is really stable and unlikely to fall over when you have it set up. You should also make sure that it is perfectly compatible with the weight of your camera otherwise your tripod might move while you are taking a photograph.

Remember that you would never be able to get a perfect long exposure shot without a tripod. A durable tripod is also a really convenient piece of equipment because it will allow you to quickly aim at different areas and in different directions without having to mess around. If you tried to get a long exposure shot without a tripod, then your camera would pick up on every single movement and leave you with a ridiculously blurred shot.

Telescope

Before we even venture into the world of telescopes, it is worth noting that there are hundreds of different telescopes that you could purchase and use to take beautiful astrophotography shots. For a normal visual observing of the night sky, most people seem to work on the basis of a large, expensive telescope being the best option for astrophotography.

But, if you are just a beginner then the opposite is in fact true. A small telescope would work absolutely fine and take beautiful photographs because you don’t really need a large telescope. We would advise that you go for a small telescope that features something like an 80mm (or slightly smaller) refractor.

Mount

Another really important piece of equipment that you need to consider is your mount. If you are planning on doing long-exposure astrophotography, then a mount is absolutely crucial. You do have to spend a little bit more money than you might like to buy a good mount, but it is a worthwhile investment.

The type of mount that you want to purchase for astrophotography is called an equatorial mount. Do not purchase a mount that features an altazimuth design because these are only really good for visual observing. An equatorial mount has the ability to track the sky with motion, making it perfect for long-exposure shots. You should also make sure that the mount that you are looking at is compatible with the telescope.

Important Accessories

Now that you know what a beginner’s astrophotography kit mainly consists of, you need to consider the other accessories that can really make a kit worthwhile. They include:

  • A remote release trigger. This is a really important piece of equipment because you want to minimize the amount of movement that your camera is exposed to when you are taking long exposure shots. Simply put, a remote release will make sure that you do not accidentally move the camera because you will not have to touch it.
  • A bright headlamp. You should never go out to photograph the night sky without a headlamp. It will stop you from stumbling around in the dark, but it will also provide you with a quick and easy means to focusing your camera.
  • Some sort of star chart application. Going out to do astrophotography without a means for seeing which stars are where would be like going out wearing a blindfold. A simple mobile application will enable you to quickly spot the Milky Way with a minimal amount of effort.

Go and Photograph the Stars!

Once you have got your beginner’s astrophotography kit together, you should go out and get as much practice as you can whenever the sky is clear. Practice is one of the most important parts of photography, regardless of whether you are shooting the stars or the sea.

 

About the author: 

Mike Benton is a passionate hunter and his favorite grounds are Alaska and British Columbia. He’s also an expert in hunting gear and he is one of the most reliable resources when it comes to choosing the right tools for the job. He also writes for OpitcGearLab.com.