How to photograph the “Blue Supermoon”

The clouds will part tonight for perfect photography conditions!

Buy Spike’s “Supermoon Over Detroit” photo HERE.

A blue supermoon is a rare astronomical event that occurs when two conditions coincide: a “blue moon” and a “supermoon.” Let’s break down these two terms:

  1. Blue Moon: In popular usage, a “blue moon” refers to the second full moon that occurs within a single calendar month. Normally, a month has only one full moon, but due to the slight mismatch between the lunar month (about 29.5 days) and the calendar month (which can be 30 or 31 days), occasionally two full moons can occur in the same calendar month. The term “blue moon” has nothing to do with the moon’s actual color; it’s more about the rarity of the event.
  2. Supermoon: A “supermoon” occurs when the full moon coincides with the moon’s closest approach to Earth in its elliptical orbit. This makes the moon appear larger and brighter in the sky than usual. The difference is more noticeable when the moon is closer to the horizon, so photographing the moon rise or moon set in the clear sky is a gift!

When both a blue moon and a supermoon occur simultaneously, it’s called a “blue supermoon.” The sight is relatively rare: We won’t see this happen again until 2037.

The actual differences in size and brightness between a supermoon and a regular full moon might not be as dramatic as they are often portrayed in photographs. So how do you capture that image? Read on…

Photographing a supermoon can be an exciting and result in stunning images. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get the best shots:

1. Plan Ahead:

  • Check the lunar calendar: Find out when the next supermoon is expected to occur. This will help you plan your photography session in advance. Tonight’s blue supermoon will rise in Metro Detroit at 8:24pm. This is only 15 minutes after sunset so the sky will have some beautiful color as opposed to shooting the moon in the black of night.
  • Location scouting: Choose a location with a clear view of the horizon where the moon will rise or set. Consider incorporating foreground elements like trees, buildings, or landmarks to add depth to your photos and make it more interesting (a photo of the moon alone in the sky is boring and common). Tomorrow night, you will get a second chance at the supermoon if the weather is clear at 8:50pm.

2. Equipment:

  • Camera: A DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual settings will provide the best control over your shots.
  • Lens: Why does our iPhone makes the moon look like a dot in the sky? Because its lens is “wide angle.” A telephoto lens is the most important tool for moon shots: Use a focal length of at least 200mm to capture the moon in greater detail. If you have time, rent a lens of 400mm or more (from Procam in Livonia) to pull the moon closer to your horizon and make it look extraordinarily large!
  • Tripod: Use a sturdy tripod to keep your camera steady during long exposures. Don’t try to shoot the moon handheld!
  • Remote shutter release: This minimizes camera shake when taking the shot.

3. Camera Settings:

  • Mode: Use Manual (M) mode for complete control.
  • ISO: Start with a low ISO (e.g., 100-400) to minimize noise.
  • Aperture: Set a wide aperture (e.g., f/5.6 or wider) to gather more light.
  • Shutter Speed: Since the moon is moving, use a fast shutter speed (around 1/125 to 1/250 second) to avoid blurring. Adjust this as needed.
  • Focus: Switch to manual focus and set the focus to infinity. Use live view to fine-tune the focus on the moon’s surface.

4. Composition:

  • Frame the shot: Include interesting foreground elements to give context and scale to your moon shots. 
  • Rule of thirds: Place the moon near the edges of the frame using the rule of thirds for a more balanced composition. (Don’t center the moon in yoru photo.)
  • Experiment with framing: Try different angles and compositions to create unique images.

5. Shooting:

  • If you have one, use a remote shutter release or the camera’s self-timer to prevent camera shake when capturing the shot.
  • Bracket shots: Take a series of shots at different exposures to ensure you capture the moon’s details and avoid overexposing the highlights.
  • Try different focal lengths: Experiment with zooming in and out to capture the moon in various contexts.

6. Post-Processing:

  • Import your images: Transfer your photos to your computer for post-processing.
  • Select the best shots: Choose the images with the best focus and composition.
  • Adjust exposure: Use software like Adobe Lightroom to adjust exposure, contrast, and highlights.
  • Enhance details: Apply light sharpening to bring out lunar details.
  • Crop and frame: Crop the image if necessary to improve composition.

7. Be Patient and Enjoy:

  • Photography is often about timing. Sometimes clouds or haze can affect visibility, so patience is key.
  • Experiment, learn, and have fun. Each supermoon provides an opportunity to improve your skills and capture unique shots.

Remember that the beauty of photography lies in your creativity and personal style. While these guidelines can help you get started, don’t hesitate to try new techniques and explore your artistic vision when photographing the supermoon. No one is born with natural photography talent – you learn and become better by trial and error. Shoot often!

Need location ideas? Here are a few great locations in the metro Detroit area where I have captured beautiful moonrise (and sunrise) shots:

  1. Belle Isle Park: This large island park offers a variety of picturesque spots along the Detroit River for capturing the moonrise. The view of the Detroit skyline from Belle Isle can be particularly stunning too. My black and white photo on this page was actually taken from Riverside Marina as the supermoon set over Detroit so that I could also include Belle Isle’s MacArthur Bridge in the foreground of my skyline shot.

  2. Detroit Riverwalk: The Riverwalk stretches along the Detroit River and offers various vantage points to capture the moon rise over the water, with the cityscape in the background.

  3. Lake St. Clair Metropark: Located on the East Side, this metropark provides a beautiful lakeside view that’s perfect for sunrise or moonrise photography.

  4. Ambassador Bridge: If you’re interested in capturing a sunrise with an urban industrial vibe, the bridge that connects Detroit and Windsor, Canada, can provide a unique backdrop.

  5. Grosse Pointe Park: The Lakefront Park in Grosse Pointe offers a lovely view of Lake St. Clair and the horizon, making it a great place for sunrise photography.

  6. Kensington Metropark: On the West Side, Kensington offers some hills and a large lake with opportunities for capturing the sunrise over the water, as well as nature-rich surroundings.

  7. Hart Plaza: This downtown plaza by the riverfront provides an open area with city skyline views and the Detroit River, creating a dramatic setting for sunrise photography.

  8. Cranbrook Educational Community: The Cranbrook campus in Bloomfield Hills features elegant architecture and well-maintained gardens, offering unique opportunities for shots. But check ahead because they are not always open early for sunrise and moonrise.

  9. Stony Creek Metropark: Another metropark option, Stony Creek, has a picturesque lake that can provide beautiful reflections of the sunrise.

  10. Rouge Park: This large urban park offers a mix of natural settings and cityscapes, making it an interesting spot for sunrise photography with diverse backdrops.

Remember that the actual experience of photographing a sunrise can vary depending on weather conditions, the time of year, and your specific preferences. It’s a good idea to visit these locations ahead of time to scout the best spots for your sunrise shots and to familiarize yourself with the lighting conditions. Always prioritize safety and follow any rules or regulations specific to the location you choose.

Did you find this free photo guide helpful? Buy Spike a coffee!


Buy Spike’s “Supermoon Over Detroit” photo HERE.

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