Photographing the Moon

Photographing the moon might sound like a pretty straightforward photo assignment, but in reality needs a bit more attention in order to get a photo that really stands out. Since I recently had Sony DSC-HX300 on review it was an obvious choice for this kind of photo since it has 50x optical zoom which gave me field of view equal to 1200mm on full frame. This allowed me to frame a shot in such a way no crop will be required (except for different image ratios).

Most photographers tend to shoot moon during night when the sky is black, but I opted for a different solution this time. I took several shots during dusk in order to get blue sky to make the image stand out in the crowd of similar ones on the internet. Finally I chose one with the shade of blue sky I liked most, but this was still far from splendid (out of camera images are almost always boring looking), so I did some post processing.

Above: three shots with various shade of sky; I chose the middle on for further processing.

All of the processing was done in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) even though HX300 cannot record RAW format, but I’m used to this plugin and love to use it for most of my images.

First of all, I selected to edit the image in 16bit mode to avoid posterization which can occur with gradients of the same color, even more since the starting image is JPEG.

Next step consisted of little play with sliders untill I got the look I liked; I dialed contrast at +50, highlights at -36 (to darken the moon), shadows at -47 (to get more contrast with darker parts of the moon and sky), boosted white to +43 (to brighten brightest parts of the moon even further), blacks at -32 created black corners, clarity at -33 (to get more softer feel to whole image) and boosted saturation at +18 for blue sky.

Above: as you can see, this is allready very close to final image, but not quite what I had in mind; the Moon is without contrast and to bright.

Next important step consisted of localized settings, so I used adjustment brush for the moon and sky with different settings. The Moon got strong boost in contrast and clarity (both at +100), reduced shadows and highlights and a bit of color correction. Unwanted colors appeared on the moon so I had to use -22 for temperature, +12 on tint and -22 on saturation in order to keep neutral gray shades (image below with adjustment brush area marked pink). I needed to be very careful and precise when selecting Moon since any area outside it would get very strong darkening of the sky.

At this point, sky got some very ugly noise so i used another adjustment brush for the sky with noise reduction as the only setting used at +90 (image below).

After that, only detail that remained to be adjusted was stronger corner light falloff. I used Post-crop Vignetting tool which allowed me the same level of corner darkening with any crop ratio (good if I decide to change crop at some later point which i regularly do).

At this point, the image got the look I intended it to have from the start. Finally, I chose 3:2 ratio for this article, but other work just as well; at this time this image is on my desktop in 16:10 ratio and I posted it to 500px in 1:1 ratio which I liked beste at the time. The last step was resizing the image for web, slight sharpening using Smart sharpen (radius 0,2, amount 33%, lens blur from drop menu), and saving it for web at quality 80. Final image can be seen below.

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