How to Take Pictures of the Milky Way


If you were far enough away, you would see the that Milky Way galaxy is a massive spiral. But because our solar system is located within that spiral, we can only see one of the spiral's arms. From our point of view, the Milky Way looks like a faint white streak painted across the sky. However, seeing the Milky Way and taking a picture of it are two different things. In order to photograph the Milky Way, you'll need to know how to set up your camera and how to snap the photo.

Things You'll Need

  • SLR camera
  • Shutter-release cable
  • Tripod
  • Find a very dark area. Most areas, even in small towns, have light pollution that will affect your shot. Get as far away from all ambient light as possible.

  • Set your camera to manual mode (usually designated by an "M") so that you can choose your own focus. Set the focus to "Infinity," and set your ISO to either 800 or 1600. Set your f-stop to the smallest numerical value allowed by your camera. Different cameras shoot differently, so you may have to experiment with the settings a little bit until you find one you like.

  • Mount your camera securely onto a tripod. This is absolutely necessary, as the slightest movement during the photographing process will create a blurry picture. No matter how steady you think your hands are, they are not going to be steady enough.

  • Connect a shutter-release cable to your camera, as you'll be taking long exposures. It's more helpful to press this bulb or button instead of pressing down, and holding, the button on your camera.

  • Set your exposure somewhere between 15 and 30 seconds. Take several pictures by pressing the button on your shutter-release cable. Adjust your exposure to between 30 and 60 seconds. Continue taking pictures and increasing your exposure time to experiment with different shots. Take as many pictures of the Milky Way as you can with your preferred settings for best results.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wear bug spray and dress in layers to avoid being bothered by mosquitoes and cold weather.

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