How to Photograph the Full Snow Moon With a Phone

February's full moon, also known as the Snow moon, will peak at 11:59 a.m ET on Wednesday, but don't worry if you don't have time to grab a professional camera.

Aspiring moon photographers can grab an impressive image of the full moon on February 16 with just their phones thanks to advice from photography experts and regular full moon photographers on Twitter.

Twitter user Jamal Nasir who goes by the handle the Moon Guy is a dab hand at catching impressive moon images. With regards to picturing the moon with a smartphone, he told Newsweek: "Capturing the moon is all about practice and experience. Never let equipment be a barrier in photography."

To assist smartphone users, the team at LaFayette Photography, including photography expert Karlo Jacutan, has produced a guide to capturing a moon image with an iPhone or an Android.

They write: "Capturing a full moon in all its glory with a camera can be tricky, particularly for those only armed with a smartphone.

"Though smartphone cameras are getting better every year, when it comes to capturing images of celestial objects such as the moon, they struggle to compete with digital cameras, like DSLRs."

Jacutan points out that doesn't mean that smartphones can't be used to capture awesome moon images, especially using available apps and by optimising the settings of a smartphone.

Lowering the ISO

The first trick recommended by the team is lowering the setting of how much light your phone captures, or the ISO. Jacutan explains: "When photographing the moon—or any other light-emitting object—you want your camera to capture as little as possible, so an ISO of 100 is ideal."

On an iPhone, the ISO can be altered by tapping the plus icon (+), which can be found to the right of the shutter speed slider within the camera app. Once you have tapped this, two sliders will appear. Shutter speed is on the left, and ISO is on the right. You can then drag a toggle to lower the ISO.

Low Shutter Speed

While in the menu of your iPhone, the LaFayette Photography team advises that you slow the shutter speed of your camera, as a slower shutter speed allows more light to hit the lens and be recorded by your phone.

Jacutan advises: "You want a slow shutter speed when taking pictures of the night sky. This means you can capture light more effectively, especially in areas where there is movement, like airplanes or shooting stars."

Apps Can Help

Some Androids allow users to alter ISO and shutter speed manually via the settings menu but don't worry if you have an Android that doesn't allow this as there are professional camera apps that will do this for you.

Apps such as Long Exposure Camera 2 for Android phones should allow this and, along with Long Exposure Camera for the iPhone can also be useful for snapping the moon with long exposures.

According to the LaFayette Photography team, long exposures really help to ramp up the accuracy and quality of night time images like moon pictures.

The Moon Guy also uses another type of app to assist in capturing impressive full moon images. He explained to Newsweek: "I have this application called Night Sky which notifies me whenever the moon rises. After that, I have ample time to set up my equipment, usually a tripod and the camera."

What Not To Use For Smartphone Moon Images

One thing you won't want to be using when attempting to catch your Snow Moon image is your phone's flash. Jacutan warns: "Flashes ruin night sky images, so make sure this is switched off if you're shooting pictures of the moon."

Instead, he advises budding moon photographers to use High Dynamic Range (HDR) settings which are ideal for shooting still images of the night sky. Jacutan continues: "You'll want to keep this on if your phone camera has the option to use it, which is common with most phones made before 2019."

Another thing that smartphone users will want to avoid using during their moon photography session is the zoom feature. While it might feel natural to do, zooming in on the moon can actually reduce the overall image you produce.

Jacutan says: "The best night sky photography includes the darkness of the sky as well as the celestial object. People like to see the contrast, so don't be afraid to leave it in when taking photos of the moon."

Twitter user Victoria in the Fens has some additional advice to make the moon larger in your images. She told Newsweek: "To make the moon look bigger, make sure large objects are far away, and also you can crop the photos easily on your phone."

The photographer, who snapped a stunning image of 2021's Snow Moon over the River Great Ouse, also had advice for people just starting out in the moon imaging efforts: "Always grab a photo whenever you can, the more you take, the more you learn."

One thing that experts can help with when it comes to grabbing a moon picture is the weather. Author Robert Budd, who goes by the Twitter handle Lucky Budd is a regular moon photographer who posts his images to the social media platform. He told Newsweek: "I check the weather report to see when the clear window will be available. I'll be capturing an image of the Snow Moon if the clouds cooperate!"

Victoria in the Fens concluded: "I have been looking, and the weather is challenging this week, but that certainly will not stop me. I will be out as I know from previous full moons that patience is truly needed with the weather and full moon combination.

"I have captured the full moon every month for about two years I think. Might have missed one or two... I Love the challenge and to see a full moon rising or setting is something very magical."

The Snow Moon.
A stunning image of 2021's February full moon, also known as the Snow Moon, over the river Great Ouse in the United Kingdom. Victoria in the Fens