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Astrophotography Guide: How to Photograph the Stars with Your iPhone

What is Astrophotography?

Astrophotography involves capturing images of the night sky. It is an intricate form of photography, given the complexities of distance and lighting involved. Different types of astrophotography, such as deep space and solar systems, require special gear. Although professional equipment is often used, impressive results can also be achieved with your iPhone using the right techniques and settings.

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When talking about astrophotography it’s necessary to bring up telescopes, since the invention of the telescopes paved the way for the detailed imagery we capture today. The ability to see far and in detail, is what allows for the amazing deep space imagery we see in the video above.

It is said that the well-known Astronomer Galileo Galilei would sketch the images he saw in his telescope, the precursor to photography. Many decades later, as astronomers and photographers collaborated, John Adams Whipple captured a daguerreotype of the moon in 1839 (photo below). It is the earliest known image of the moon.
John Adams Whipple Daguerreotype of the Moon - 1839

Is Astrophotography Possible on the iPhone?

Fast forward to the 21st century, where we have cellphones that are also cameras. Now, let's pose the question: can we capture an image of the moon on our iPhone?

The short answer is yes.

The iPhone is capable of capturing the following:

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Solar/Lunar: Images of eclipses, the sun, and the moon.
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Nightscape/Landscape: Images of the Milky Way with a landscape element, such as star trails, mountains, and aurora.
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However, deep space images are not possible and require heavier and more complex gear. Although the iPhone cannot capture these forms of astrophotography, being able to see the moon and the Milky Way in detail is mesmerizing, and we have come a long way.

How Do I Adjust My iPhone Settings for Better Astrophotography Images?

There will be a good amount of editing required after capturing your images. Adjusting your camera's settings is foundational to producing quality images. Switching to ProRAW and slowing down your shutter speed in night mode are the two most important adjustments.

ProRaw enables extensive editing post-photoshoot, while night mode allows your camera to capture stars more clearly. Check out the videos below for tutorials on how to ensure you adjust your settings correctly.
*Night Mode Tutorial for iPhone at 6:30

Best Gear for iPhone Astrophotography

Once you have your settings updated, check out the gear listed below to bring your photos to a higher level of quality:
Wide Lens
The wide lens is perfect for capturing the vast night sky. Delivers sharper images compared with iPhone's native ultrawide camera especially in lowlight conditions.
Tripod
A tripod is necessary to keep your iPhone stable while capturing the sky in night mode, since any shake can blur your image. 

How to Prepare for a Night of Astrophotography

Preparing for a night of astrophotography entails planning ahead. You can have all your gear and settings ready to go, but if you leave without double-checking the three categories below, you won't end up with the best shots

  • Weather Check: When you check the weather forecast, look for any cloud coverage. If it is a cloudy night, the night sky won't be visible.
  • Moon Check: A full moon is beautiful, but on a night when you are shooting the night sky, it can become a hindrance. A full moon brightens the night sky, making it harder to have clear visibility of the stars.
  • Light Pollution Check: Similar to how a full moon affects the sky, light pollution can do the same. Light pollution is artificial light from nearby streetlights, businesses, or homes that illuminates the sky. Because of these lights, the sky will not be dark enough to see the stars. There are only a few places around the world that light pollution does not touch. Luckily, the organization DarkSky International allows you to search your city to find the darkest areas closest to you.
There are multiple astronomy apps that make it easier to check these three categories a long with star positions through out the night.
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Astrophotography with your iPhone can be a rewarding experience. With the right settings and gear, you can capture breathtaking images of the night sky.

Happy shooting!