Paso Robles Tree | James Brandon

Ask James – Getting Started With Astrophotography

Hi James,

I’d like to get into astrophotography without using a telescope, i.e. just with my DSLR and have researched the internet for hints and tips but haven’t had a great deal of success putting it into practice.

I’ve come across the 500 rule to give a maximum exposure time in seconds, various permutations of ISO settings and F numbers.

I’ve seen a few of your star photos and would be grateful if you could advise on how you setup and calculate your settings and your post processing workflow along with any hints and tips.

Kind Regards


I wrote an article for Digital Photography School not long ago on this very subject. You can check it out at That should get you up and running on astro photography. Basically, your settings need to revolve around allowing maximum light into the sensor. That means high ISO, wide open apertures and long shutter speeds. And then to make sure you’ll actually see something you need to use an app like StarWalk II to see when the Milky Way or whatever constellation you want to capture will be in position. And a weather app to see if you’ll have clear skies overnight.

The last thing you need to make sure you nail is focus, and that can be a bit tricky at night. If you have a camera with live view, you’ll have a much better chance. I typically set my lens to infinity in manual focus as a starting point. Then, I’ll use a flashlight (I use a very powerful Coast flashlight) to shine a beam out onto my foreground subject or an object out in the near distance. Then, I’ll zoom in on that subject and since it’s illuminated, I’ll dial in the focus there.

Post processing star images is quite different and unique from standard post processing. I’ll be releasing a new video course soon and that will touch on processing astrophotography images.

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