Taking a photograph of one or more shooting stars requires a sky that is as dark as possible (ideally far from big cities), a little patience and… a great deal of luck!
Which photo equipment should I use?
Shooting star photography requires a camera that has a fully manual mode and allows exposures of at least 30 seconds. Digital single-lens reflex (DSLR) or mirrorless interchangeable-lens (MILC) cameras often provide better control in this regard.
Here are the steps to get your camera ready:
- Equip your camera with a "normal" or wide-angle lens, or adjust the zoom to its widest opening;
- Set the aperture to maximum (lowest f-number), focus to infinity (you will need to switch to manual focus mode), and turn off image stabilization (vibration reduction);
- Use a medium to high sensitivity setting (ISO 400 to 3200);
- Make sure to begin your photography session with an empty memory card, fully charged batteries, and that you have spares at your disposal.
How to photograph shooting stars
Set up your camera on a sturdy tripod and point it at an open area of the sky to catch starlight for a few seconds or even a few minutes.
First, run a few tests to find the right sensitivity and exposure time combination that allows you to see the stars without the sky becoming too washed-out. This will depend on the quality of your observation site.
In the city and in the suburbs, light pollution will quickly take over and limit you to exposures of a few seconds. If your sky is darker, you will be able to push your exposures up to a minute and even longer without a problem. However, when the Moon is up, you will most likely have to reduce your exposure time accordingly.
Take the opportunity to adjust white balance settings to get an eye-pleasing image, with a rather neutral background tint. If you are comfortable with this operating mode, you can also save your images in "RAW" format.
Once settings are adjusted, take as many images as possible to increase your chances of catching a meteor along the way. If your camera has a time lapse function, you can use it so that a succession of images is automatically taken. Then, all you have to do is hope that a shooting star has crossed the star field among all the images you have photographed. But keep this in mind: only very bright meteors will be clearly visible on your photographs.