How to Photograph the ISS

How to Photograph the ISS

Photograph the ISS: Image shows ISS trail above mountains

(Enlighten credit: Getty Images)

The ISS is a laboratory orbiting the Earth 400 km above its ground, at a tempo of over 27,000 km per hour. To position that groovy number in some standpoint, that’s spherical 8 km/s and an complete orbit of the Earth takes correct 90 minutes. Despite all this, the Global Space Space just isn’t any longer all that provocative to photo – you correct must produce moderately of planning, and non-public a general working out of astrophotography.

The ISS is incessantly visible from Earth as some degree of sunshine slowly and silently traversing the sky. In the hours after sundown or before dawn, the Space stays lit by the solar whereas the Earth is aloof in darkness. Since the trudge of the ISS also can furthermore be calculated, this system that with some planning, the correct equipment and optimistic skies, it’s going to also furthermore be a inserting field to photo. Right here’s easy strategies to photo the ISS – from planning to shoot to enhancing.

Basically the most sharp approach to hunt down the ISS

Luckily, you don’t want a stage in astrophysics to calculate the attach the ISS also can hotfoot on a voice night – several websites produce the total onerous be just right for you.

Glance a Satellite Tonight

One in all our favourite alternatives is James Darpinian’s Glance A Satellite Tonight, a of path artful net online page which helps you to seize a popularity and this can no longer most sharp repeat you a Google Earth behold showing how the ISS will behold from popularity, but a Google Facet road Glance with a simulation of how the ISS (and a spread of a spread of satellites) will behold as they drag overhead. As you would explore from the image below, it’ also can furthermore be a of path considerable machine for visualizing your compositions previous to time.

See a Satellite Tonight

(Enlighten credit: Glance a Satellite Tonight)

Heavens Above

Heavens Above is arguably the perfect identified and most detailed net online page for monitoring the ISS. It has a a little dated interface, alternatively or no longer it’s aloof pretty easy to make expend of. On the positioning’s touchdown net page, click on on ‘Swap your searching at popularity’ and seize the attach you’ll be photographing from. Then, again on the homepage, click on ISS below 10-day predictions. If there are any visible passes at your popularity, the safe online page will expose you the occasions and instructions.

Enlighten the Space

NASA’s beget Enlighten The Space is another which offers a more uncomplicated interface and a live monitoring characteristic, which helps you to explore the attach the recognition is at the moment floating above the earth. It furthermore has a at hand alert carrier, that can ship you either emails or texts when the recognition it visible out of your popularity. 

What tools produce you may want to photo the ISS?

Photographing the ISS doesn’t require specialist or pricey tools. The ISS is a sparkling point of sunshine within the sky – any lens will be ready to take it, however the faster the higher. Therefore at the bare minimum you’re going to need: 

  • A DSLR or mirrorless camera with full manual preserve watch over. For these that must always know the variation between the two, now we non-public a records to DSLR vs Mirrorless cameras. 
  • A lens at a correct focal length, to take an very excellent trudge you’ll want a wide attitude lens.
  • A tripod. The sturdier the higher.
  • Some form of shutter liberate. This may maybe per chance be a cable plugged into your camera or a faraway preserve watch over that lets in you to take photography without physically touching your camera. For the sharpest possible issue, right here is a an fundamental system to non-public in your arsenal.
  • A dew heater. These are cheap USB-powered units that prevent moisture – ice, dew or fog – from forming on the front of your lens throughout your shoot. You are on the total extra probably to bump into this on longer shoots, such as taking pictures broad title trails, but you’d be taken aback how mercurial dew can invent. For these that are purchasing for added steering on this, now we non-public a full article on lens heaters for astrophotography.

Planning the shot


First, non-public in thoughts the attitude of the ISS drag. If it’s arcing shut to the horizon, then you undoubtedly may maybe presumably well even non-public in thoughts a wide attitude shot showing the arc juxtaposed with an enticing foreground. If the ISS passes at the moment overhead, you would must take the ISS as it meets the horizon, creating a vertical band of sunshine within the accomplished issue. 

Deem an enticing foreground for the image. For these that’re taking pictures a wide attitude arc, what can you include to anchor the image? If it’s an overhead drag, can you line up the trudge of the ISS with a foreground hobby?

ISS over llangorse

(Enlighten credit: Matthew Browne)


A entirely optimistic night is supreme, but you would aloof try an ISS photo with light or patchy clouds. In actuality the sparkling light passing out and in of areas of cloud can create an enticing issue, as seen above.


For these that’re purchasing for inspiration for photography locations shut to you, or ISS compositions to envision out out, then there are a few areas to behold. 

PhotoHound is a net online page for photographers to share knowledge on heavenly photo spots, easy strategies to salvage there and in what prerequisites (at the side of astrophotography). For these that non-public a voice popularity in thoughts, find it on Instagram and behold at essentially the most most up-to-date photography. You don’t must hotfoot to a taking pictures popularity to hunt down the attitude you desire isn’t accessible or the behold is blocked by some means. 

Google Maps has sizable protection on Facet road Glance that may maybe presumably well presumably also lend a hand you visually originate your shot and produce popularity scouting without leaving the residence. Come at your popularity early and establish a spread of take a look at photos to ensure your composition will work. You’ll must non-public your settings ready to head when the ISS makes an appearance. 

Settings for photographing the ISS

To photo the ISS, you’ll must take a sequence of photography – generally 8 to 20 seconds every reckoning on the focal length – that may maybe presumably well presumably also furthermore be blended later to develop to be a single mosey of sunshine. It’s a a linked path of to photographing broad title trails. 

A flyover of the ISS can closing a pair of minutes, so you would trust it’s enough to leave the shutter launch for the duration – right here is a rookie mistake! There are two reasons to lead optimistic of this system. At the foundation, a take of several minutes will nearly undoubtedly be overexposed. Secondly, if there are any stars in your issue these too will open to create a gentle trudge.

Stars at different exposures

Stars at a spread of exposures: 150 seconds on the left, 10 seconds on the correct. (Enlighten credit: Matthew Browne)

Can non-public to you create your take a look at photos, verify your stars to make certain they remain as intelligent aspects of sunshine. Above you would explore a comparison – on the left is an issue fascinated by 150 2d publicity, the attach the stars are trailing and overexposed, and on the correct is an issue fascinated by a 10 2d publicity, that has crisp, intelligent stars.

Though there’s not any onerous and swiftly rule on settings, listed below are some pointers to hunt down a atmosphere that works for you.  

  •  Position your camera to manual mode which offers you full preserve watch over over every atmosphere.
  • Aperture wants to be as low a host as possible so your camera collects as great light as it will probably per chance. We customarily imply taking pictures astro scenes at f/2.8 or f/1.8, in case your lens is as a lot as the assignment.
  • Shutter tempo wants to be so long as possible without stars trailing. This is incessantly 8 to 20 seconds.
  • ISO relies upon in your ambiance. In a brightly lit popularity such as a cityscape or if the moon is up, it will probably presumably well presumably be as low as 400. In rural, darkish sky areas then it’s going to also need to be as high as 3200. Many contemporary cameras will fortunately shoot at increased ISOs with very little noise. On the opposite hand, whereas you are insecure about this, now we non-public a records to reducing noise in astrophotography.
  • Make sure exact taking pictures is enabled, so your photography are captured consistently throughout the shoot.
  • Repeatedly shoot uncooked, it lets in you to take higher element and further dynamic differ out of your camera sensor. It furthermore offers you excellent extra records to play with throughout the enhancing path of.

Modifying your photography of the ISS

Successfully accomplished – you’ve captured an ISS drag! Your work isn’t moderately over but, there’s aloof the assignment of combining these photography into one the usage of a system referred to as stacking. Adobe Photoshop makes this easy. Assorted machine is on hand to mix ISS (and a spread of broad title trudge) photography such as Starstax (Mac and Home windows) and Startrails (Home windows). Below is our step-by-step records for the Photoshop draw.

Enlighten 1 of 7

Photoshop editing interface

(Enlighten credit: Adobe photoshop)

Step 1

Open the total photography as layers in Adobe Photoshop 

Enlighten 2 of 7

Adobe Photoshop editing interface

(Enlighten credit: Adobe Photoshop)

Step 2

Buy out the total layers and characteristic the mix mode to lighten. (Facet novel: If there non-public been stars in your issue, these too may maybe presumably well presumably non-public began to trudge. If right here is a see you’re going for, then sizable. For these that’d love intelligent stars with the ISS trudge then read on.)

Enlighten 3 of 7

Adobe Photoshop Editing Images

(Enlighten credit: Adobe)

Step 3

Duplicate one amongst the layers and establish as a brand contemporary layer. You’d must name this ‘Execrable Layer’ for ease of reference 

Enlighten 4 of 7

Adobe Photoshop Editing Images

(Enlighten credit: Adobe)

Step 4

Buy out the leisure of the layers and community these to a brand contemporary folder. You’d must name this ‘ISS’ for ease of reference.

Enlighten 5 of 7

Adobe Photoshop Editing Images

(Enlighten credit: Adobe)

Step 5

Add a layer conceal to the folder. Click on on this conceal. Then seize a unlit brush and paint onto the ISS trudge. The ISS trudge will be eliminated as you produce this. 

Enlighten 6 of 7

Adobe Photoshop Editing Images

(Enlighten credit: Adobe)

Step 6

At closing, invert the conceal. This is accomplished by correct clicking the conceal and pressing Cmd+i on Mac. Now, most sharp the ISS trudge will now be overlaid onto your corrupt issue. 

Enlighten 7 of 7

Completed image stack of ISS night sky shot

(Enlighten credit: Matthew Browne)

Closing issue

The accomplished issue stack of our ISS night sky shot

When you’re tickled that your issue stack is complete, you also can must proceed enhancing to form things love color toning or dodging and burning your foreground. You’d needless to claim proceed to edit it in Photoshop, or reserve it to path of further the usage of a spread of issue editors such as Lightroom or Luminar. 

Before and after image

Before enhancing, this issue overexposed with a stable orange color forged from avenue lighting fixtures hitting the clouds. To retain out the closing edited, we applied some color correction, disagreement, plus some dodging and burning. (Enlighten credit: Matthew Browne)

The Global Space Space is a spectacular and precise field to photo. Armed with these strategies, optimistic skies and moderately persistence you would create photography with a real wow component.

Join our Space Boards to retain talking popularity on essentially the most up-to-date missions, night sky and further! And whereas you non-public a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Mathew Browne is a photographer from south Wales with a voice hobby in photographing the night sky. He’s a product developer for Skylum Instrument and the founding father of the photo popularity discovery app PhotoHound.