THE 500 RULE (how to shoot the milky way)

THE 500 RULE

A HOW TO IN ASTROPHOTOGRAPHY

INTRODUCTION

Hi guys! For you folks that follow me on Instagram and Facebook sorry for the delay on the article on tips and tricks to photograph the beauty of the night sky. I promised a 5 tip write up a few weeks ago on how to shoot the Milky Way but first and foremost lets back it up a bit shall we. It's like that old saying you gotta learn to walk before you can run right!?! Yep, corney I know haha! It's so true thou.

So let me begin first by explaining what probably is the most important subject and easy to remember formula in photography that you need to wrap your head around FIRST before packing that bag and moving forward onto your next big adventure to capture the big and beautiful Milky Way. The ever so popular and misunderstood "RULE OF 500."

WHAT IS THE RULE OF 500

So with out getting to crazy and technical which sometimes I find to even add more confusion to the matter, I'm going to break it down as easy as I can explaining it to you as I would to anyone else that would come out with me on any of my astro workshops etc.

THE 500 RULE is a simple formula to calculate the exact shutter speed with a particular lens, full frame and or crop sensor camera. This formula, if done correctly will produced those pin-point, razor sharp stars with out no trailing in your Milky Way photos or images of the night sky.

HOW TO USE THE 500 RULE

It's fairly a very easy thing to remember and pull off. You take the number 500 and then divided by the focal length of your lens = the longest exposure before stars start to trail or blur. For example; let's say your taking a shot with a 16mm lens on a full frame camera. 500 / 16 =  31.25 seconds, which you can round to 30 seconds. I'll always run down to the nearest zero.

(NOTE WHEN USING A CROP SENSOR CAMERA YOU HAVE TO MULTIPLY THE CROP FACTOR FIRST BY THE FOCAL LENGTH OF THE LENS BEFORE DIVIDING THAT NUMBER BY 500.) 

So obviously if you caught on to the trick by now every lens will have a different length of time you can shoot before you get that unwanted star trailing in your photos. BELOW listed are the crop factor values for a few popular camera brands.


Sony & Nikon = 1.5 crop factor (EXAMPLE) 1.5 X 16 = 24 | 500/24 = 20 SECONDS

Cannon = 1.6 crop factor (EXAMPLE) 1.6 x 16 = 25 | 500/25 = 20 SECONDS


THIS PHOTO ABOVE WAS SHOT WITH THE SONY A7RII AND THE SONY 28 F2.0

USING THE RULE OF 500, THE CALCULATION CAME AS 500 / 28 = 17.857

ROUNDING DOWN TO THE NEAREST ZERO THAT WOULD BE 17 SECONDS. BUT BECAUSE THERE IS NO 17 SECONDS ON THE SHUTTER DIAL, I THEN DROP IT DOWN A STEP TO 15 SECONDS.

NOTICE NO TRAILING! THE STARS RESEMBLE PIN POINTS. IF I WAS TO SHOOT THIS SAME IMAGE @ EVEN A FEW MORE SECONDS DISREGARDING THE RULE OF 500 I WOULD BE SURE TO SEE SOME TYPE OF TRAILING.


A CALCULATION CHART FOR POPULAR FOCAL LENGTHS FOR FULL FRAME CAMERAS

(all calculations was rounded down to the nearest zero)

12MM = 41 SECONDS

14MM = 35 SECONDS

16MM = 30 SECONDS

20MM = 25 SECONDS

24MM = 20 SECONDS

28MM = 17 SECONDS

35MM = 14 SECONDS

50MM = 10 SECONDS


CONCLUSION

So there you haveit! That wasn't so bad was it? A very easy technique to live by to achieve those awesome pin pointed stars in your Milky Way and nighscape photos. I will cover star trailing in another write up which does and doesn't involve a longer exposure time depending how you go about it. I personally choose a one long twenty minute exposure as seen in the photo below other than stacking a number of images in Adobe Photoshop. But hey let's save that for the a next time.

   A single exposure with the Sony a7rii and Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 AT-X116 Pro DX II with Cannon to Sony Metabones adapter @ 20 minutes / F4 / ISO 400

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial and can take away something to lift your night photography to the next level. As always, if you have any further questions please don't hesitate to drop me a email. Also, visit my workshops page for any astrophotography meet ups I have on date or plan your very own ONE on ONE or group workshop by contacting me for pricing and availability.

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Till next time, Happy shooting!