Home Lifestyle Photography How to Shoot the Perfect Star Trail Photos

How to Shoot the Perfect Star Trail Photos

8 min read

Star trails are exquisite to shoot. Photographing a star trail involves capturing the movement of the stars in the night sky owing to the rotation of the Earth. A star trail photograph showcases the streaks of light that stars leave behind during this motion.

Photographs of star trails are surreal and have a certain mystery about them. Following are a few tips that will help you capture the perfect star trail photographs. Let’s take a look at these.

The Right Time and Place

To capture a striking photograph of a star trail, you would need to choose the right place and the right time. While selecting the place, keep in mind that ambient light will interfere with the star trail photograph. Choose a place that is far away from the city lights.



Even the moonlight can ruin the photo. The stars may not be visible in bright moonlight. Pick a time when the moon isn’t above the horizon since this will brighten up the sky. A clear night is ideal for shooting star trail photos.

You can consider including structures in the foreground of the photograph. Stationary objects are the best choices. You can include a building, mountain, big trees etc. These can work as wonderful silhouettes in the photograph.

Carry the Right Gear

Having the right gear with you is necessary if you wish to make your shot unique. The idea of capturing a star trail is to allow the camera to pick up the light that it normally wouldn’t. For this, your camera should have the right features. An SLR or a digital SLR capable of shooting in the ‘Bulb’ mode is necessary.


Since you would need to shoot long exposure photos, a sturdy tripod would stabilize the camera by eliminating any camera shake. An extra pair of batteries will come in handy since long exposure shots usually tend to drain them out. A cable release can be helpful too.

If you are shooting on a cold night, you would need to wrap an insulation around the lens to keep it from fogging and ruining the shot. Carrying a flashlight will also be a good idea if you wish to illuminate the structures in the foreground.

Setting the Equipment

Using the right camera settings is essential to take the perfect shot.

The exposure time can be determined through trial and error method. Needless to say, if you wish to shoot long star trails, you would need a long exposure. However, long exposures can dim the brightness of the star trails.

Set your camera to the lowest ISO setting in order to reduce the amount of noise. Using a large aperture while taking the photo will ensure that the maximum amount of light enters the camera. This will help you capture bright star trails.

Since you will be shooting in the dark, getting the auto frequency to lock on anything can be a little difficult to achieve. With a wide angle lens, both, the foreground as well as the stars will be in focus even at a wide aperture. In that case, you can set the focus to infinity.


Once you have achieved perfect focus, do not forget to set the camera in manual focus mode before starting the exposure. Otherwise, you may lose the focus and you will have to start from the beginning. Also, ensure that the white balance is correct.

That being said, it is always wise to take a batch of test shots to perfect the settings for the final shot.

Image Stacking

An alternative method to taking a single shot of the star trail is by stacking sequential images using computer software. This method involves shooting short-exposure photos. As a result, you would not have to worry about noise in your photographs. This will enable you to shoot with a faster ISO and a wide aperture. This means these shots will be able to pick up more stars than the single shot method.

You can also consider creating a time lapse video with all the sequential shots you capture for image stacking.

It is important to hone the basic skills of photography in order to shoot exceptional star trail photos. If you live in Dubai, you can consider enrolling in photography courses in Dubai to polish your basic photography skills.

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