The camera settings will for Deep Sky Astrophotography will be different from other types of photography as you will be taking multiple images of a dim or invisible subject at night and then stack the images together.
Camera Settings for Deep Sky Astrophotography
These are my base settings but they may vary by the Deep Space Object (DSO) that you are photographing as well as other variables.
- Bulb Mode as you will be shooting with either an intervalometer or a photo capturing software such as BackyardEOS (Canon) or BackyardNIKON.
- ISO 800 – 1600. This can vary based on the dimness of your target and how long of exposures you can take based on the accuracy of your polar alignment.
- Aperture. You’ll want as much light as possible so shoot with a pretty wide open aperture if possible. I typically use from f/2.8 to f/5.6 depending on the capability of my lens.
- Daylight White Balance. If you are using a modified DSLR you will want to set a custom white balance with a gray card on a sunny day.
- Single Shot
- Manual Focus
- Turn Off Image Stabilization
- Turn Off Long Exposure Noise Reduction. Stacking photos will help to reduce the noise. You can also use software plugins such as Topaz DeNoise AI that works really well in reducing noise in night sky photographs. If you keep Long Exposure Noise Reduction on, it will double your capture time.
- Exposure Time – this will vary depending on the:
- Brightness of the deep sky object
- Accuracy of your Polar Alignment
- Light pollution and whether you are using a light pollution filter. Light pollution filters will allow you to take longer exposures without losing the details in your Deep Sky Objects.
- Number of exposures –
- The more data, the better – at least an hour of total exposure time for most objects. Some people will collect 8+ hours of exposures on a single target over multiple nights.
- It’s a good idea to check your exposures every so often between shot sequences to verify composition, tracking, and focus.
It’s always good to have examples of the settings used to capture astrophotography images. Here are the settings that I used to take above photograph of the Cygnus Loop.
- 200mm focal length
- f/3.5 aperture
- 210 second exposure
- 18 exposures
- Total exposure time of 63 minutes
- ISO 1000
- Custom white balance
- SkyTech CLS Clip in Filter for Canon EOS-C
Written by Martin Belan