We can’t blame you if you like space—we love it too!
Staring into the infinite is a profound, humbling experience. If only we could bring a tiny piece to share the stunning vastness with others.
This begs the question, can you take pictures of other galaxies? Believe it or not, you can indeed! But it requires some special equipment and preparation on your part.
What is Deep Sky Photography?
First of all, deep-sky and deep-space are interchangeable terms in the context of photography. It is precisely what it sounds like – photographing galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, craters, and the like.
Deep-sky photography is also known as astrophotography. The word astro comes from the Greek ástron, meaning star. The rest is self-explanatory!
What Gear Do I Need to Photograph a Galaxy?
Contrary to what you might think, you don’t need a monstrous, multi-million dollar telescope like the Hubble in your backyard.
Much less can do – here is a shortlist of the material necessities to produce detailed, clear photos of deep space.
Modern DSLR or Mirrorless Camera
Any recent camera body would do. Look for extreme ISO range, large sensor size, and something with good battery life or USB charging.
Sturdy, Stable Tripod
A stable, ball head tripod is an absolute must for star photography. Try and do it handheld, and you’ll quickly see why.
Serious astral photographers know that a tracking mount is essential to make up for equatorial rotation. In particular, during long exposures.
This inexpensive astrophoto accessory can, in theory, be replaced with the timer function. Although, in terms of usability, there is no substitute for an intervalometer or programmable shutter trigger.
Unsurprisingly, the 12″ telescope is the star of the show. Fit it to the camera body with the proper adaptors and focal reducers. You then have the tool for getting up close and personal with deep space.
Can you even take pictures of other galaxies without a telescope?
Sure, yes, you can. But you need to adjust your expectations, as a traditional zoom lens is not explicitly designed for looking at space. It will get your feet wet, though.
Other Handy Equipment for Astrophotography
By now, you have the bare basics in terms of gear. Depending on the season, location, and camera features, the following items can help further propel your space photos to astronomic heights.
Not to mention, they’ll make it immensely more enjoyable and effortless!
Dew Heater and Dew Shield
A dew heater coupled with a dew shield is crucial for long exposure astrophotography in cool climates. Otherwise, your fogged-up lens will produce ‘the milky way,’ even before you ever aim it at the stars.
Enough Spare Batteries
Even despite tricks like switching off the rear display, long exposure tends to suck battery juice as if it were some black hole. Doubly so, in colder weather.
A USB-chargeable camera or a sufficient stack of OEM batteries is a must for slow-shutter star photography.
Filters and Adapters
You’ll need a suitable adapter to fit a refractor telescope to your digital camera. Most likely, a so-called t-adapter and t-ring, specifically designed for your camera model.
Depending on the aspects you wish to emphasize, you can experiment with various color filters. Some astro-lovers even outright convert their camera to infrared (IR mod).
How to Photograph a Galaxy With a DSLR Camera
Now for the fun part. How can you take pictures of other galaxies with your regular camera? There are two main ways.
The first method uses your DSLR mounted on a tripod with any lens you happen to own. Then, you can either do a time-lapse or exposure-stack a bunch of shots.
Slow shutter speed is an option, but you need a tracking mount for it to happen correctly (not leaving blurred lines).
The other method is more advanced, but the results can be pretty spectacular. It involves attaching a zoom lens or telescope to an equatorial mount.
Then, with the combination of good visibility, skill, and technique, you can capture detailed, high-resolution images of nebulas and galaxies.
What Are the Best Camera Settings for Astrophotography?
The ‘stars’ truly need to align for you to produce a print-worthy, magical capture of the Andromeda Galaxy. Correct camera settings are, undoubtedly, a big part of the formula.
Shutter speeds could be anything from 4 seconds to bulb based on your setup and technique. The ISO typically ranges from the lowest available to 800 or more.
When exposure-stacking multiple images, you get rid of any digital noise in the process. This effectively renders the ISO value insignificant.
You should always ‘shoot for the stars’ using your camera’s RAW format and the highest possible resolution.
That’s what provides the best flexibility in post, and ultimately, the best technical quality.
Other Articles In This Series
You might be wondering where else you can take photographs. This series of articles might be of interest:
- Can My Neighbor Take Pictures of My Backyard?
- Can You Take Pictures of Atoms?
- Can You Take Pictures of Books in Library?
- Can You Take Pictures of Celebrities?
- Can You Take Pictures of Checks?
- Can You Take Pictures of Coworkers Without Permission?
- Can You Take Pictures of Military Aircraft?
- Can You Take Pictures of Other Galaxies?
- Can You Take Pictures of Other People’s Houses?
- Can You Take Pictures of People’s Cars?
- Can You Take Pictures of People’s License Plates?
- Can You Take Pictures of Police Cars?
- Can You Take Pictures of the Milky Way with an iPhone?
- Can You Take Pictures of the Mona Lisa?
- Can You Take Pictures of the Pentagon?
- Can You Take Pictures of the White House?
- Can You Take Pictures on a Plane?
- Can You Use a Polaroid at Night?
So, can you take pictures of other galaxies – and if yes, how?
The answer is simple, but the process is not. It takes the right equipment, practice, patience, and technique.
Photographing distant galaxies seems a bit daunting at first, but rest assured, not only is it entirely possible. It’s also enormously rewarding once it finally ‘clicks’ and you see the vibrant fruits of your efforts.