31+ Days Of Photography Experiments – Shooting The Full Moon At Moonrise

Friday’s Topic was Making White, White.

I’m excited about today’s topic for 31+ Days Of Photography Experiments because it might actually be clear enough in Seattle for me to try it (if I didn’t already have plans with my daughter tomorrow). Today’s experiment is actually for you to try tomorrow but I want to make sure you have time to read and prep. Plus this blog is read by a fair amount of Aussies and it’s tomorrow for them already.

The key to a good moonrise photo is to get out the day before it is actually full. I prefer the day before because then the sun is higher in the sky and Golden Hour light is bathing the foreground while making the moon not too bright in comparison.

Let me give you a couple of websites to find full moon dates and times in your area:

You can actually get all the info from the Photographer’s Ephemeris (TPE)  but it’s good to have the other sources as well. I like TPE because it has a free desktop version for PC and MAC, making planning at home/office easy.

You can use TPE to plan your shot. Here is a good post on how it works and how to use it.

Here’s the experiment you can run:

1) If you are not familiar with shooting the moon, read my post here first. It has what you’ll need to know for this experiment.

2) Use the tools above to find out when the full moon is rising at your spot on the planet.

3) Plan to head out the day before the full moon to shoot. Use TPE to find a good location to shoot the moon and pick a place where you can find an interesting foreground. If you want some inspiration, take a gander at this post where I interviewed Michael Riffle about his wonderful Seattle moonrise photo. Luck works sometimes, but preparation gives you better odds.

4) Go out and shoot the moon!


Shooting the moon can be very fun and often frustrating. The best planning can be dashed by a badly placed cloud or fog layer. That’s another reason I propose people shoot the moon the day before the full moon; because if things don’t work out, they can still go back the next day (but note that the moonrise time changes by up to 55 minutes each day).

I also profess shooting the day before because here in the Puget Sound we have mountains to the West that cover the sun before it actually sets on the horizon. If your Western exposure is predominately flat, then you can have better luck shooting the day of the full moon. Plus, sometimes, the full moon is technically in the wee hours, such as 1:12am, which means the full moon rose the day before.

Things To Consider

  • Arrive early! I can’t stress this enough from my experience having to set up in a hurry. Give yourself at least an hour. You’ll enjoy it more if you’re relaxed.
  • Invite a friend, even if they don’t shoot.
  • Metering will not change much or rapidly while the sun is still up. The scene will be evenly lit, so meter before the moon comes up. This is a good time to use Manual Mode.
  • Make sure to not clip highlights because that’s what the moon is, one big highlight.
  • Lacking much else, use the Rule Of Thirds to align your shot.



This example shows what happens if you wait until the day after a full moon. It can still work, but you need very well placed foreground objects. And luck.

Again, I waited until the day after and this image took a lot of computer time to come about. Save yourself the hassle, shoot early!

Have fun shooting the moon and please post a link if you get a great shot!

Tomorrow’s post will be about Shooting The Full Moon At Moonset.

31+ Days Of Photography Experiments is a series written by professional photographer Peter West Carey on The Carey Adventures.Com. The series is designed to unravel the mysteries of photography so you can take better pictures through practical experiments on the material found in 31+ Days To Better Photography. Subscribe here to receive all the updates and bonus material. Your comments are always welcome.

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