2. NEXT LEVEL Take Test Photos
Shoot overexposed sample shots to gather landscape detail and improve composition.
1) Situate and orient. Point your tripod-mounted camera away from artificial light sources like distant cities or roads.
2) Set your camera to capture extra light. Open the aperture wide (low f-stop numbers represent larger apertures), and select the highest ISO (1600 or above). Use a shutter speed that allows your camera to catch excess light (30 seconds).
3) Shoot a few overexposed pictures. Many areas may appear white, but quality doesn’t matter, it’s composition that counts. Examine these shots for desirable elements like rocks or trees—or for distractions like an angled horizon, bright spots caused by light pollution, or clouds. Note the focus of stars and foreground objects.
4) Adjust composition and focus. Turn and pan the camera to frame your desired scene; tilt it to level the horizon. Refocus if necessary.
5) Fine-tune. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until you’ve framed the desired shot. Then, based on conditions and content (see chart below), adjust ISO, aperture, and shutter speed to expose properly.
Shoot RAW images.
Plan to print? RAW files are like negatives, and allow more editing flexibility. Save storage space: Shoot in RAW, but delete test shots.
Use these exposure settings and composition tips to enhance night pictures.
Photo by Ben Canales
Star trailsExposure time
32m Aperture (f-stop)
f/16 Sensor speed (ISO)
Experiment with exposure times lasting from several minutes to several hours. Longer times will show longer trails.
To capture arcs of light like these (left), shoot long exposures on clear nights (clouds obscure the stars). For vortex-like circles, center your frame on the North Star.