Top tips for astrophotography composition 2023

Astrophotograph of the aurora borealis showing Top tips for astrophotography composition


Key Points:

• Get the key bits of kit — a camera that performs well in low light, a suitable lens and a sturdy tripod
• Get to know the best time (of year/night) to shoot your desired subject
• Find a suitably dark location with an interesting foreground
• Monitor stargazing, aurora, light pollution and weather apps for the best shooting conditions
• Familiarize yourself with the best camera settings before you head out on a shoot
• Experiment and break the rules
• Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the perfect shot first time — it takes practice

Taking photographs of the night sky can be such a rewarding yet emotional experience, and due to the challenging dark, usually cold and unpredictable conditions, it takes practice and patience to get the shots you want. In this guide, we will look at the key tips to compose the best astrophotographs possible and what you need to know before taking your camera out under a canopy of stars. 

The night sky is ever-changing. Over the period of our lifetimes, light pollution has risen dramatically, and more of us are losing close connections to the heavens above. With the stark rise of satellite technology, it is estimated that by the year 2025, there will be more satellites visible than stars in our view of the night sky. Now more than ever, it is so important to look up to the stars and recognize our sense of place within the universe and capture these moments the best we can. From shooting the Milky Way to the dream-like Northern Lights, this guide has you covered.

Gear choice and framing

Ashton Windmill in the UK, with a circular star trail in the background

Windmills are the perfect foreground for capturing star trail rotations — this is Ashton Windmill, Somerset, UK. (Image credit: Josh Dury)

You don’t need ‘all the gear’ to create stunning astro shots; you can get stunning results from your camera phone with practice. However, if you want to use a ‘proper camera’ you will need one that performs well in low light, or even better, one of the best cameras for astrophotography. Currently, we’d recommend the Nikon Z8 as the best camera overall and best camera for astrophotography because of its phenomenal features, highly detailed sensor and fantastic ability to manage high ISO noise that comes with shooting the dim starlight at night.

Best tripod for astro

Benro Mach3 TMA37C

(Image credit: Benro)

We’ve named the Benro Mach3 TMA37C as the best tripod for astrophotography overall because of its intuitive operation and sturdy leg locks for stability and steadiness.