Astrophotography appeals to everyone – hobbyist astronomers, amateur lifestyle photographers, and professionals alike. It is a unique blend of science, photography and art wrapped into one very rewarding experience, but it can be overwhelming to navigate at first. Thankfully, there are wonderful books to help you along your journey.
Browse through these comprehensive reviews of some of the most popular and informative astrophotography books to decide which guides will suit you best.
Hall wrote this book in a relaxed, casual voice which immediately works. He takes aspects of both astronomy and photography that might otherwise be intricate, and makes them engaging and easy to understand. You almost feel as if you are simply having a conversation with the author. However, if you are coming from a background of photography, some of the explanations on photographic principals may seem ineloquent!
The book is mainly aimed at backyard astronomers and telescope owners who are interested in taking photos using the piggyback method. Some of the text does make it seem like this type of setup is superior or the only option available, but this can easily be forgiven due to the depth with which he explores this type of setup. It is an especially valuable resource if you have not yet gone out at purchased any equipment. A good chunk of the book is dedicated solely to understanding which equipment you need, so you can avoid making any unnecessary purchases.
If you are a telescope owner (or are interested in getting a telescope) but unsure of the other gear you need, the book can definitely help you decide and possibly save you some money. There are chapters on telescopes, different types of mounts, camera options, controls and software.
Over 200 beautiful illustrations and photographs accompany the text.
Let me just say right off the bat – great as this book is, no one could be blamed for calling it outdated. The author strives to show us how to capture the heavens using nothing more than an ordinary 35mm camera, so we are dealing with film. This is not an issue for many hobbyist, neither from an astronomy nor a photography background, it is simply that most people entering any of these fields today are using DSLRs, not film.
That said, the book remains a firm favourite in its field. This comes as no surprise. It is a comprehensive guide: 500 + wonderfully detailed pages covering everything you need for astrophotography using film, and accompanied with photographs of equipment, setup, and night sky subjects.
Reeves resourcefully delves into piggyback techniques, the pros and cons of different cameras, which lenses and filters are best to use, even detailing dark room techniques. Overall, a well-written book with text that is rich in information that is easy to absorb.
Ashley’s guide is a great introduction to astrophotography using nothing more than an entry level DSLR and GoTo Telescope – a mobile, budget setup capable of taking photographs so beautiful no one would ever know how basic your equipment is! It is easy to end up spending exorbitant amounts of cash on expensive tracking mounts and other astrophotography equipment, but this guide shows you that there are cost effective alternatives which work just as well. The key to this is taking multiple short exposures of your subjects and stacking the images using freely available software, and this is what Ashley focuses on throughout the book.
Ashley covers the basic equipment you need for this affordable setup, even going into which types of telescopes and cameras would be the best fit for you. It also details and shares techniques for the entire process of taking short exposure photographs and stacking them like an expert. As a matter of fact, one of the most resourceful parts of this book is how efficiently Ashley explains using the free programme DeepSkyStacker. If you have no experience using this kind of programme, Ashley makes it very easy to get started.
The book is great with its step-by-step instructions, graphics and illustrations but there is one nagging downside: the editing of the book is not very good, and it is more than likely that this will be frustrating if you are an avid reader.
Still, it remains a good option as a beginner wanting to learn about DSLR astrophotography and software, and wanting to capture deep sky objects and star trails on the go (and on a budget).
The Complete Guide to Landscape Astrophotography: Understanding, Planning, Creating and Processing Nightscape Images – Michael C. Shaw
If your main interest is in night sky landscape images, then this is the perfect manual for you. Shaw dives right into everything you need to know about landscape astrophotography, eliminating the need to sift through photography concepts and methods that do not apply to this specific branch.
There is a lot of great astronomy related information in the book; perfect if you are an amateur astronomer or simply interested in scientific facts. However, if your sole interest is in night sky photography rather than in learning about the Solar System, Milky Way and Earth’s atmosphere, these pages can feel like nothing more than cumbersome filler content.
The book is dense with invaluable tips and techniques. For example, Shaw includes a section on the 25 best landscape astrophotography subjects and takes it a step further with insight on how to uniquely capture each one.
He also goes into the more technical side of the art; providing how-to guides on creating time-lapse videos, exploring the best software and apps, camera optics, human, visual perception, how to clean your lenses and sensor, and tips on capturing meteor showers including the best time to photograph them. Despite the intricacies of these topics, Shaw presents them in a readable and understandable manner.
An awesome final clincher is the beautiful accompanying photographs from some of the most popular and renowned astrophotographers around.
This excellent guide to night time photography is a unique resource which focuses on photography principles rarely discussed. Most of what we learn about photography is generalised and aimed towards getting the best out of your shots during the day. Collier’s book tilts that around to show us how to take the best photographs under low light conditions.
Here you can find techniques one can apply to astrophotography, whether it be capturing star trails, the Milky Way and constellations, meteor showers, or eclipses. There is even an in-depth discussion on photographing the Moon, including which phases are best to shoot under, and tips for getting the most out of the different phases. Collier’s guide is also great because it applies the techniques on shooting, composing and processing to both film and DSLR. This makes it a perfect buy no matter which camera you plan on using.
This compact book is only 160 pages long, but it is so informative and well written, and contains the most inspiring photographs too. You can definitely tell that the author has applied years of knowledge and experience to his work. Though not specifically focused on astrophotography (it also explores photographing aurora, lightning – a variety of night phenomena), Collier’s guide is a highly rated book supported by outstanding reviews. It is sure to be an excellent addition to any astrophotography book collection.
The short, no bones title of this book says it all. It is written by Thierry Legault, world renowned astrophotographer, and recipient of the prestigious Marius Jacquemetton prize for his accomplishments in the field. Legault is – perhaps more than any other – the authority on astrophotography, and his wealth of knowledge is precisely what you will get out of reading this book.
The only real downside of exploring the mind of such a true expert is that some of the details quickly become too intricate or advanced for an absolute beginner possessing no knowledge in astronomy or photography. The general basics are there – no question about it – but I would best describe this book as a reference guide to amateur astronomers or photographers who already grasp the basics and want to start upping their game.
In this case, you are sure to appreciate the sheer detail and dedication that has gone into this manual. Of course the photographs are stunningly detailed; themselves offering rich information that you can apply to your own images.
Legault covers camera systems, software, and advanced techniques for capturing within the Solar System (including the Sun) and deep sky objects. The book essentially combines both the science and art of astrophotography into an almost unsurpassable guide.
Though a couple of years old, most of what is contained within the book is perfectly applicable to today’s world of astrophotography – and possibly always will be.
Each one of these guides offers a unique perspective on beginner astrophotography, and you really could not go wrong with any of these authoritative guides. In my opinion, the best astrophotography books would have to be Legault and Collier, simply because they write with a more modern approach to the field, and showcase true expertise in their works.
- Getting Started: Long Exposure Astrophotography – Allan Hall
- Wide Field Astrophotography: Exposing the Universe Starting with a Common Camera – Robert Reeves
- Astrophotography on the Go: Using Short Exposures with Light Mounts – Joseph Ashley
- The Complete Guide to Landscape Astrophotography: Understanding, Planning, Creating and Processing Nightscape Images – Michael C. Shaw
- Colliers Guide to Night Photography in the Great Outdoors – Grant Collier
- Astrophotography – Thierry Legault
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