When the full moon rises, many people whip out their cell phones to try and snap an Instagram-worthy photo, but unfortunately, it’s really hard to get a great photo of the moon.

Two reasons: it’s very far away, and unless you have a telephoto lens (which makes the moon look closer than it is), it will always look like a very small glowing dot in the frame.

Second, shooting at night is really difficult. Professional cameras allow you to change the ISO or sensitivity rating, which means you can shoot in low light without losing image quality.

So you can use your smartphone camera?

The short answer is yes, but I would suggest downloading an app and taking pictures of the moon through it, rather than using your iPhone or Android camera. Some programs allow you to increase the sensitivity rating, allowing you to shoot in low light. I’d suggest making sure there’s another element to the image – like capturing the moon as it passes by, say, a beautiful bridge or mountain. This allows the viewer to get a glimpse of the size of the Moon and also creates a more interesting image.

An airplane is silhouetted against the rising supermoon as it approaches Louisville International Airport in Kentucky on Monday, April 26, 2021. Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

But even with these programs, you may be a little disappointed with the results.

To get an amazing shot of the moon, you really need a telephoto or zoom lens – the longer the better. In addition to a professional camera and tripod, also use a cable release or a two-second delay timer to release the shutter. This prevents the camera from shaking when the button is pressed. This allows not only to increase the size of the moon in the frame, but also to get all the details in it, keeping the image as sharp as possible.

The full moon rises in Buenos Aires.  A supermoon rises behind the Carta Magna y Las Cuatro Regiones Argentinas monument in Buenos Aires, Argentina on April 26, 2021.
A supermoon rises in Buenos Aires, Argentina on Monday, April 26, 2021. Photo: Agustín Marcarian/Reuters

Your settings will vary depending on the quality of the camera you are using. But you want your ISO set to 100, which gives you a high quality image. Set the file size to Raw – this allows you to get the largest file size for your camera.

Aperture isn’t as important when shooting the moon, so aim for around f8.

So who gets the best photos of the month?

I love this shot taken by Matt Cardy at Glastonbury Tor in 2015:

A supermoon rises over Glastonbury Tor in England on September 27, 2015.
A supermoon rises over Glastonbury Tor in England on September 27, 2015. Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Cardi created such a spectacular shot using his composition and focal length. The size of the moon compared to the people creates an image that looks out of this world.

On 13 September 2022, this article was amended to distinguish between the northern and southern hemisphere dates for the September full moon.

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