One of the best things about night photography, in general, is how forgiving it is. That is to say, you generally don’t need special weather conditions to create a really nice picture. The night and urban lights give you all you need to work with. Once it is dark the light isn’t changing so you aren’t chasing the light. Almost any night will do.
But if you are trying to photograph the night sky it is a completely different story. The reality is that night sky photography is very finicky. If you are going to pursue this sort of photography be ready for your opportunities to be very limited. You should also be ready for some failures.
Failure is never any fun, but it is even less so in night sky photography. You have to go to remote areas, so you will often have to drive long distances to get the shot. You will be cutting into valuable sleep time as well. So let’s try to avoid some of those failures. In that regard, here are the six biggest problems I expect you will run into and how you might deal with them.
Night Sky Photography Killer #1: The Moon
There is nothing that will destroy your opportunities for night sky photography more than the moon. This might surprise you, but it is true. Why is that the case? Because the light coming from even a quarter moon is over 100 times more powerful than starlight. So it simply washes out the scene.
Having the moon in the sky does have its advantages. It can light up your foreground, for example. But when it comes to photographing the stars, it is a killer.
What’s more, the moon is in the night sky for most of the month. Frankly, I wouldn’t plan a night sky outing more than about 4-5 days on either side of a new moon. Anything near a full moon is out of the question. That takes about 70% of the year out of the picture for night sky photography. As such, it is a huge limitation.