How to Take a Milky Way Portrait

milky way

How to Take a Milky Way Portrait with Rey Benasfre

Back in July I wrote the article on five tips for shooting the Milky Way.. In it we covered the basics of shooting this beautiful piece of our galactic home. I talked about gear, planning, safety, settings and how to set your focus for tack-sharp stars. Now I’m going to explain how to add a human subject into your Milky Way images. We are going to combine long exposure astrophotography with environmental portrait techniques such as lighting, posing and composition. Everything from my last article stays the same with a few additions in gear. It’s easy to compose a landscape Milky Way image and drop a human into it to create an interesting story, but if you want to bring it from good to great you’ll want to keep reading. 

Planning

In my previous article we discussed planning and safety. The same principles still apply here of course. You’ll want to stay flexible and keep an eye on the weather. If the forecast calls for cloudy weather you aren’t doing any shooting. If it’s clear to partly cloudy you’ll have a good shot. Also, don’t forget the time of the year (February through October if you’re in the U.S.), the moon phases, and the tools we use to track the Milky Way. You would plan this like you would any landscape Milky Way shoot, but this time you may have another human to coordinate with and be responsible for. 

Make sure you educate your subject—whether it’s a model or actual client—on what this shoot is going to be like. Most experienced models have never done this type of shoot and don’t realize that they will be expected to stay completely still for up to 30 seconds in each shot. In many cases it will probably be a little chilly so have them bring a coat or blanket to keep them warm between shots. 

Safety is especially paramount this time because now it involves another person who trusts you enough to travel to the middle of nowhere with you in the dark. Don’t let them down by letting them get hurt during the shoot. Bring extra flashlights for them, watch your step and be mindful of local wildlife. 

Milky Way

Get the full story

To read the full article, launch the digital version of the December 2020 magazine.

Leave a Reply

Want more content like this?

Check out our recent posts

5 easy poses for boudoir photography thumbnail

5 Easy Poses for Boudoir Photography

Posing for boudoir photography is always a challenge. In this video, I will show you some easy tips to posing your clients. Not every client is a model – so we need to find an easy set of poses to get them started. Once they get comfortable in front of the camera, you can then work on more advanced poses and lighting techniques to build on for the images you create.

Read More »
beauty-retouching-with-luminar-neo-thumbnail

Beauty Retouching with Luminar Neo

Beauty retouching is fun and easy with Luminar Neo. This is one of several tools I personally use in my editing process. I love how easy this tool is for editing your images. Quick, easy, fun and creative are the words I would use to describe my editing. In this quick Luminar Neo Tutorial, I will show you my editing techniques for working some recent portrait images I created. One of the things to keep in mind while watching is a term I like to refer to as “season to taste”. We all have different editing styles and different taste. Work on and find the ones that work for you and your business.

Read More »