Photograph tips for July’s ‘Buck’ supermoon on Wednesday


July’s full moon is special. Not only is it a supermoon — which appears larger than a “regular” full moon — but it is the biggest and brightest full moon of 2022. The increased size and brightness occur because its orbit is closer to Earth than any other full moon this year.

This month’s supermoon is known as the buck moon, since the moon occurs when male deer, called bucks, sport their newly grown antlers. It rises Wednesday evening at 9:05 p.m. in Washington and sets at 6:31 a.m. the following morning. Check for moonrise and moonset times in other locations.

On Wednesday evening, weather fronts along the East Coast and in the Intermountain West will generate scattered cloud cover that may impair viewing. Skies will be clearest in the Central United States and west of the Rockies.

The term supermoon was first coined in 1979 by Richard Nolle when describing a new or full moon that is within 90 percent of its closest approach to Earth. Over recent years, supermoons have become popular targets for photographers.

And to help those of us who hope to photograph this month’s buck moon, I asked area photographers for tips and advice to capture the perfect moon shot — from how to plan for your shot, avoid overexposing the moon and achieve stellar framing.

Below are the photographers’ suggestions for photographing the moon, along with a collection of their photos. I’ve also included a few of my own. The camera settings used to take the photos are included in the captions.

  • The first step to planning a moon photo is to check the schedule of moonrise, moonset and moon phase. — Kevin Ambrose
  • Patience is needed, and it helps to stay up late or to get up early, depending upon the position of the moon. — Chris Fukuda
  • Always use a tripod and a remote shutter release, which are wired or wireless, to avoid camera movement. — Kevin Ambrose
  • Turn off autofocus and lock in the focus on objects in the foreground before moonrise. Otherwise, the autofocus may jump around during the shoot. — Dave Lyons
  • Take lots of photos as you never know which one will end up hanging on your wall, or someone else’s. — Josh Steele
  • Various apps can be used to plan where the moon will be on a certain day. Some popular apps are PhotoPills, Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE), Sun Surveyor and Planit Pro. Google Earth and Street View are also helpful in understanding the foreground view from a specific location. — Dave Lyons
  • Don’t worry if it’s not a perfectly clear night as low clouds can often create a much more dramatic background with the moon. — Josh Steele
  • The moon is extremely bright soon after it rises above the horizon, and if the moon is overexposed, detail is lost. — Kevin Ambrose
  • Underexpose. — Kevin Wolf
  • Since proper exposure is a challenge at dawn and dusk, consider bracketing your exposures. I’ll often bracket (+/- 1 or 2 stops). — Dave Lyons
  • Add interest to your moon photo by pairing it with a foreground subject such as the U.S. Capitol, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Jefferson Memorial, etc. And when possible, position yourself far away from the foreground subject to make the moon appear larger. — Dave Lyons
  • I like to capture moon shots from a distance with a long lens, ideally 400 mm or greater. This makes the moon look bigger and more interesting in comparison to the foreground. — Josh Steele
  • For perfect alignment in photos, you need to measure the elevation angles of how the moon rises, sets and its phase. You can get the information by using PhotoPills or Photo Ephermeris (TPE). — Chris Fukuda
  • The closer the moon is to the horizon, the more variations of color you will see and photograph. — Josh Steele
  • Windy conditions can produce blurry photos because it shakes the tripod. And the blur is amplified when the camera is zoomed in from a long distance. Thus, a fast shutter speed, 1/20 second or faster, is often necessary for sharp moon photos with wind. — Sasa Lin
  • It’s important that your foreground subject is sharp. It is not as important to have the moon sharp because when the moon is near the horizon, it often appears distorted due to the atmosphere. — Dave Lyons
  • I love photos that combine a view of the moon with a lightning flash. It’s a rare combination, but it’s possible when shooting a distant thunderstorm surrounded by clear sky. — Kevin Ambrose
  • While a long lens (300 mm or greater) is best when shooting a long distance from a foreground object, a 70-200 mm lens is all that is needed for many classic D.C. moon shots. — Dave Lyons

I also queried smartphone photographers for their tips to shoot the moon with camera phones:

  • Aim a telescope at the moon, then position an iPhone’s camera close to the telescope’s lens eyepiece without touching it. Take multiple photos of the eyepiece and choose the photo that has the best focus. — David Roberts
  • In lowlight conditions, you can use the iPhone’s Night mode Time-lapse with a tripod to capture videos with longer interval frames. Open the camera app, then swipe to the far left until you see Time-lapse. Tap the shutter button to capture your video. — David Jenkins
  • Taking photographs of the moon with a smartphone can be more challenging than with a DSLR camera. Long exposure apps, available from the Apple App Store and Google Play store, can significantly improve the quality of nighttime photos. Nicole France at Mark Lord Photography

Let us know if you have any tips or suggestions for shooting the moon.