Milky Way Photography Settings: Use These for 98% of Your Shots (2018)

Taking photos of the Milky Way requires a totally different approach than almost any other kind of photography. This is why we’ve dedicated an entire article to the Milky Way photography settings that we use for 98% of our shots.

Before we get started though, I want to make one thing very clear.Always expose for the sky, not the foreground.

When you start adding foreground interest into a frame, it can be tempting to compromise on exposure so that both parts of the photo are correctly exposed. Resist the temptation.

If you want to get the best image of the Milky Way possible, you’ll want to expose for the sky.This article is a small part of our comprehensive guide: How to Photograph The Milky Way

Exposure

Aperture

One luxury of focusing at a single point of interest, millions of miles away, is that you don’t need to think about the depth of field. Even if you shoot at f/1.2.

So the question isn’t ‘Will everything be in focus’, it’s ‘Will I have enough light for my exposure’. After all, we capture photos of the stars during the darkest nights of the month.

For Milky Way photography, I recommend shooting at your widest aperture settings—f/2.8, for example. This will allow the most amount of light into the lens, and allow for a shorter exposure duration.

If you’re taking a photo where you include some foreground interest in the frame, such as the tree in the image below, then f/2.8 is the magic spot. It’s just wide enough to allow plenty of light into the lens while providing a deep enough depth of field to get the foreground in relative focus too.

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