Learning Night and Astro Photography

Mike Jensen - Mike Jensen Photography Workshops

Learning Night and Astro Photography

Updated For 2020

Presented by Mike Jensen
Presentation Time: 60 minutes
Discussion Time:  Varies, usually 15-30 minutes

Learning Night and Astro Photography starts with an hour long program and progresses in to a passion!  Join Mike Jensen as he teaches you the basics of Night and Astro (Stars) Photography.  This is a great program to get a jump start on something new in your photography!

Photography is an Art that MUST be Practiced and Practiced!

"This is the most important advice I can ever give a photographer" ~ MIKE JENSEN
  • Whether you are a novice or a pro, you have to PRACTICE your skill!  This is the most important advice I can give a photographer.
  • SCHEDULE time to go out and shoot!  Actually put it on your calendar.  Try to do it every week!
  • Same with learning editing software, SCHEDULE time to learn!  Put it on your calendar!
  • Build your photography in to your travel!

Mike's Path To Always Improving Your Photography

Tried and True Methods For Consistent Improvement
  • Don't mortgage your future for camera gear.  1st get better using the gear you have, then you'll know when and what to buy.  Hint -> Newest Technology.
    • When learning your camera, buy a third party camera manual.  Don't rely on the one your camera's manufacturer provided.  Those were written by engineers, not photographers.
    • Also, get the third party manual in digital format and place it on your smart phone so you'll have it in the field.
  • Learn, practice and excel at the BASICS!
    • Light/Exposure Management
    • Composition
    • Impact/Moment
    • Technique/Technical
    • Post Processing/Editing
  • Find yourself a mentor you can shoot with and talk to.  Note, this is not someone who likes everything you shoot.
  • Take at least one class/workshop a quarter
  • Become a more purposeful photographer by pre-visualizing what your shot may look like.
  • ALWAYS have a project you're working on.

Night and Astro Photography is a great way to go in to a new or iconic location and make it your own!

~ Mike Jensen


Most cameras manufactured in the last 10 years will work for Night or Astro Photography.  You just need something which will take up to a 30 second exposure at an ISO range of 100 - 6400, and a lens of f2.8 to f4 aperture value.

Here's my normal Night/Astro Workflow

Mike's Suggestions For Continuing To Learn.

My first suggestion is that you sign up for my e newsletter.  Once you do that I'll shoot you an email with several bulleted suggestions.

Also, if you're in a camera club or a civic group, I do lectures on photography and it's ins and outs.  I'd love to talk to your group!

Every month I send informative e newsletters out to my followers about once a month. My e newsletters are always full of tips and info for improving your photography as well as any upcoming lectures, programs and workshops that he may be doing. PLEASE feel contact me regarding a speaking engagement or any photography question you may have.

Choosing A Location

  • For brilliant stars go to high elevation or minimal light from people during the new moon in Winter (less humidity)
  • To practice (every photoshoot is practice), go during the new moon, lower humidity, few clouds, far from cities & ambient light.

Things To Consider For Night/Astro PhotographyWhy do we want to shoot at night?

  • What are our expectations?
  • Do we have the right gear to live up to our expectations?
  • What kind of scouting should we do?
  • What kind of Night Photography do we want to accomplish?
    • Astro Photography
    • Night Architecture and Lights
    • Portraiture
    • Night Motion
    • Moon as the subject
    • Moon as an accent
  • Can I blend sunset with the early night?
  • Are there possibilities for Light Painting (either with the moon, ambient light, flash, Lume Cube, flashlight etc.)
  • Is there a good foreground for the night sky?


  • Practice operating your camera in the dark at home!  This is critical!  You don't want to be the photographer who shows up for a night shoot and has to turn on a light to see the knobs, buttons and dials on your camera.
  • Turn OFF your camera's noise reduction processing.  It will take valuable time away from you in the field.  (There are plenty of methods for noise reduction in post)
  • No Headlamps, flashlights durning a shoot.

Begin with a sunset shoot in your chosen Night/Astro location

  • This allows me to choose good subjects for my Night/Astro foreground (every Night/Astro shot should have a foreground to give it some depth and put all things in perspective.
  • Start your sunset shoot in Aperture priority then adjust your camera as you progress through Golden Hour and Blue Hour.
    • Remember, if your camera was manufactured after 2012 or so, it should be able to perform efficiently up to ISO 6400 so don't be afraid to turn it up if you need to.

For Pinpoint Stars

  • Know your len's "infinity point"
  • Shoot "wide open"
  • No more than 20 second exposures
  • Use ISO to manage exposure (don't be afraid to crank it up)

For Star Trails

  • Two methods - Multiple images blended in PS, or long exposures of many minutes or hours.

For Starbursts in Your Lights on Night Shoots

  • Use a stopped down aperture like f22.
  • Charlotte Harbor from Live Oak Point

  • Charlotte Harbor from Four Points In Punta Gorda

  • The Milky Way Over a Rocky Mountain Lake - A simple astro photograph.

  • Milky Way over Rural Kansas Stone Schoolhouse - A more complicated astro shot involving star stacking and light painting.

  • A Full Moon & Stars Shine Over Joshua Tree National Park

  • Done in a single shot as the moon rises over the Sandia Mountains in New Mexico. This took perfect timing to get the moon rising, focus on the subject, soft boxes firing. It all "clicked"!

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