Sequence viewing > Light & Lighting - Resource - © Lloyd Godman

Light in Photography -   LIGHTING - Sunlight - Effect of Time of day - Moonlight


Using moon light can easily produce photographs. Although the light levels might be too dim for us to see colour, with an extended exposure the camera with either film or a CCD will record a surprising amount of colour in the scene.


tidal river


In fact the results can be so good, that unless we consider the light levels, how we frame the scene and the effect of the long exposure the resulting image might seem deceptively as though it was taken during the day.  


This image was taken in the moon light, and you can see the light in the building in the background.  

However if we look in the sky we can see the stars in the sky.

In this image of the moon rise the image looks like an image that might have been taken during daylight after sunrise.



However in this image the exposure is very long (several minutes) - we clearly see the stars and the clouds have moved during the exposure creating a fascinating blurred motion.  

The small light with the green light in the lower right is not a UFO - but is caused by light refraction from the direct rays of the moon. This acts in exactly the same manner to photographing directly into the sun.

This exposure has been made in the moonlight - the tree in the foreground has been painted with light.
In this detail from the image above the stars have recorded but also an air plane, seen on the left.


Extraneous lights will show up dramatically in image shot at this time of day.


Aberrations like this can be cloned out in photoshop






The following exposures are a guide which might be useful. Set your aperture to f8

  100 ISO 200 ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600 ISO
Full Moon 8 Mins 4 Mins 2 Mins 1 Min 30 Sec
3-4 days after/ before 22mins 11 Mins 5 Min 30 Sec 2Min 45 Sec 1 Min 20 Sec
7 days after/ before 1Hr 30mins 45 Min 22 Min 11 Min 5 Min 30 Sec
10-11 day after/ before 10Hrs 5 Hrs 2 H.30 Mins 1Hr 15Mins 45 Mins


See the dynamic form below for different aperture and film settings. The exposure times are rough starting points, the subject surface (reflection), ambient light and other factors will effect your exposure. When in doubt, bracket.

Reciprocity Failure is a problem that occurs with film's ability to evenly measure light during long exposures. The characteristics of film is that during an exposure it is initially very sensitive to light but as exposure time increases the film's ability to record light is diminished. So what a light meter may tell you should be a 1-minute exposure, for a particular film that exposure may actually need to be 8-minutes.

Black and White films are effective more by the reciprocity failure than color or slide film. Check your film data sheet for it's characteristics and tables.


Want to learn more? - do a workshop or one on one with Lloyd Godman










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