How to Take Astrophotography with a DSLR

There’s no doubt about it; the DSLR or digital single lens reflex camera is the most versatile piece of image capture equipment currently available. No other camera (or telescope for that matter) can go from shooting fun family photos at the park to recording vast and distant galaxies through a scope – ands all that without needing virtually any modifications!

As the experts already said, DSLR’s truly have kicked the astrophotography door wide open for all those interested, yeap, especially beginners. But with today’s busy schedules and the fact that you have to wait for the weather to cooperate means that you have a very limited window of imaging.

Trust me, the last thing you want is to waste your one clear night combating the equipment only to end up with blurry or no images at all! Lucky for you, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide on how to take astrophotography with a DSLR.

The Basics

First off, we’ll start with the basics for capturing deep sky images with your DSLR:

  1. You start by shooting numerous, long exposure photographs through a tracking telescope with your DSLR.
  2. Next, you combine all the images together so as to develop a better signal to noise ratio.
  3. Lastly, some image processing is essential to correct the brightness levels and bring out the finer details in the object.

The quality of the images you get will depend on a wide range of factors such as the camera settings, focus, telescope tracking accuracy as well as what accessories and modifications you have. Here’s the best setup for astrophotography with a DSLR.

What You’ll Need

a) Camera

The two most common options for an astrophotography camera are DSLR cameras or dedicated astronomy cameras. There are very many different types of DSLR camera available in the market. But what makes these cameras great is that you can get pretty good images even with an entry level DSLR.

b) Telescope

Best telescope for astrophotography? Our recommendation is to start with a wide field refractor telescope, especially if you’re a beginner. That’s because these refractors offer substantial benefits over other types of scopes. For instance, they’re extremely light and portable with a super wide field of view. And they barely require any collimation.

c) Mount

Trust us when we say, the mount might just be the most important piece of equipment for astrophotography. It’s going to be impossible to get any photography done if you have to manually follow a deep sky object. You need a mount such as the equatorial mount that can be polar aligned to move with the exact sky motion. This sort of freezes the objects in space and tracks them automatically for the clearest viewing you’ve ever seen.

d) Accessories

While not always necessary, some accessories will help things run smoothly and more efficiently. As you’ll soon find out with your own DSLR, it’s all about keeping that scope locked on an object in space for as long as possible.

  • Guide Camera – Much smaller than the imaging camera itself, guide cams peer through the guide scope to display an area in the night sky. They help collect signal from star light.
  • Guide Scope – This accessory helps automatically guide the telescope and help it remain focused on a star or object within the field of view.
  • Imaging Laptop – You’ll also need a basic laptop computer to control the DSLR camera. It will control all aspects such as auto shoot, running the auto guide, testing different exposures as well as adjusting frame and focus.
  • Field Flattener – Most telescopes usually create a rounded image that is elongated at the edges. This is fine with just regular viewing, but astrophotography calls for a flat and clear image. A field flattener is used to flatten the field of view.

Get Out There

Now that you’ve got all the equipment you need to use your DSLR for astrophotography, it’s time to get to it. Under a dark, starry, and moonless sky, just set up the camera, telescope, mount and all the other accessories you’ll need.

A few nights of practice will help you get familiar with all the features of the DSLR including noise reduction, mirror lock up, as well as programming sequences.

Once you have some satisfactory photos, you’ll need to adjust a few elements with image processing software to get the most out of your images. Be sure to share your images and any discoveries you make along the way; until then, clear skies!

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