How to shoot the milky way

In this blog I will share with you my fist attempt on shooting the milky way. I will tell you which camera I used and which settings I used, where I shot it and which tools I used to find the right location.

What gear I used

For this shot I used my first digital camera. The Nikon D5300 with the 18-55mm kit lens. For taking austro shots you want to use the widest angle lens you’ve got, so you can capture as much of the sky as possible! 

The Nikon D5300 I used is a crop sensor camera. This means that the lens, the 18-55mm, is not really 18 mm wide. It would have been on a full frame camera, but because It was on a cropped sensor you have to multiply it by 1.5. So infact it was (18 x 1.5) 27 mm wide. This is still pretty wide but because I wanted a wider shot, I took a couple of images and stitched them together in post. I will tell you how I editted this shot in another blogpost. 

I also used a manfrotto tripod to keep my camera steady. 

The apps I used to find the right time and location are Skyview and Sun position demo. Both apps are free. The Skyview app I use to locate the milky way. With the app you can easily pinpoint the core of the milky way, the best part. The sun position demo app I use to see when the astronomical twilight starts. On this app I can also see the position and phase of the moon. It it critical to pick the darkest night possible. So, pick a night around the time of the new moon.

Sun position demo


Where I shot it

As I mentioned before, it is best to shoot at a very dark location. Even when you think it is pitch black, there might be a lot of light pollution from near cities. As you can see in my image there is still some light pollution. I shot this near my house, at the harbour of Ouddorp overlooking lake Grevelingenmeer.

To find a good spot with as little light pollution as possible you can use dark sky finder.

Which settings I used

So now, let’s talk settings. Because it is very dark you want to shoot as wide open as possible. This means the lowest apature. For me this was f3.5. Not very low which meant I had to bump up my ISO. For the shutter there is something called the 500 rule. Let me explain how that works. You have to devide your focal lenght by 500 in order to get the right shutterspeed. Because, when the shutterspeed is to high you will start to see star trails, which means the stars won’t appear point sharp. So, if we devide 27mm by 500 we get a shutterspeed of 18.5 seconds. There is no 18.5 second option on your camera so pick the ammount that is closest. Back then I had no clue about the 500 rule so I actually used a shutterspeed of 25 seconds. So the stars aren’t really sharp as you can see in the image.

The exact settings I used are: ISO 800 | f3.5 | 25 seconds

I hope you have found this helpful! If you have any further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me 🙂