How to photograph the Milky Way

Have you seen these epic images of nightskies where you can see all the structures of the Milky Way?

Amazing isn’t it? In this blogpost and video I am going to tell you how to create those amazing images. All you need are the three steps below.

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Step 1 – Right Timing

The right timing is crucial. The Milky Way is alway there above our head, but you can not see it all the time in the same way. The moon and the seasons make the great part of the Milky Way (the galactical centre) more or less visible. Also it depends on which part of the earth you are. When you are north of the equator you see a different part than south of the equator.

Benjamin Jaworskyj How to Photograph the Milky Way Photography


Benjamin Jaworskyj How to Photograph the Milky Way Photography


Step 2 – VERY Dark Place

Finding the right spot to photograph the Milky Way is sometimes not easy. What might help you is a dark sky map like this one. There you can see where you can find really dark places. The darker the place, the better you can see and photograph the Milky Way. To photograph it great, you need to see it great. That’s the whole deal. What I can recommend, e.g. in an populated country or area, is to go to national parks and mountain areas. It is usually much darker there then elsewhere.

Step 3 – Right Equipment and Settings

The right equipment is the last step. I would say the two above are even more important than this third step. What you need to remember is: It’s dark! What you need is: Light! All available light possible on the sensor of your camera.

That means: long shutter speed, open aperture, HIGH ISO!

I usually start from f 2.8, 15 seconds, ISO 6400 and then take a look on what I need to adjust.

Benjamin Jaworskyj How to Photograph the Milky Way Photography


Exposure Chart

With this chart you can see how long you can expose without getting “star-lines” with your focal length.

The formula behind the numbers is:
500/focal length = longest exposure without star trails

Focal LengthFull FrameNikon APSC 1.5Canon/Sony APSC 1.6
10mm33 sec31 sec
14mm36 sec24 sec22 sec
16mm31 sec21 sec20 sec
20mm25 sec17 sec16 sec
24mm21 sec14 sec13 sec
28mm18 sec12 sec11 sec
35mm14 sec10 sec9 sec
50mm10 sec7 sec6 sec
85mm6 sec4 sec4 sec

But note that it totally depends on your lens and I often take a shorter exposure because of the star trails appearing in the corners of my picture.

Great Lenses for Milky Way Photography


Samyang/Rokinon 12mm 2.0*

Tokina 11-16mm 2.8*

Sigma 18-35 1.8*

Everything else with an Aperture with 2.8 and below

Full Frame

My favorite combination for night and star photography right now is the Sony a7s/sII with Commlite AF Adapter/Phorex by #jaworskyj and Sigma 20 mm 1.4*

If you are interessted in learning more about landscape photography check out my full video course “Learn Landscape Photography”.

We filmed this course in the beautiful landscape of Norway and it contains all my best photography techniques that you need to take amazing landscape photos!

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  1. If I take a night sky photo in a mountain with a citylight below (not a very bright, just a small city below the mountain light,yellow areas in darksitefinder) will it still disturb the night sky?

    1. Yes, to a certain amount, depending on how long you expose your photo and what ISO you use. If you want to take photos of the Milky Way for example, try to go somewhere where you don’t have any cities in eyesight or nearby.

  2. Hi brother,

    i am planning to use sony a 6000 with samyang 12 mm f2 for milkyway , what would be the exposure time, shutter speed & iso i should keep ….also any lens filters required for astrophotography…pls help

    thanks in advance


  3. ❤️ Great info! I love watching your You tube videos! I’m just getting started so they are all very informative. I purchased the sony a6300 now wishing I would have went with a Full Frame Sony.

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