The Lyrid meteor shower happens every year from April 16 through April 26, with the peak occurring typically around April 22. Taking great photos of the event does not require a high-end camera though, and you can get some great results with your smartphone by following these simple tips.
The Lyrid meteor shower is the third most photogenic meteor shower, with over 8,500 photos posted on Instagram. The two more popular showers are the Perseids (54,900) and the Geminids (15,200).
Smartphone cameras are nowhere near as strong as traditional cameras, but newer models are getting better every year and with just a few tricks and some software add-ons, your smartphone can take beautiful, high-quality images.
Taking good photos of the night sky is all about stability and maximizing light, so it’s essential that you have the right tools for the job that gives your smartphone the best chance of capturing meteors from the Lyrid shower.
To photograph the stunning Lyrid meteor shower, below are some quick and easy tips that make your smartphone work its best for astronomical sights.
Use a tripod
A tripod will ensure your phone is steady and that there is no movement. Even the slightest movement can mess with long exposure images, meaning you won’t get clear pictures even if you do capture a meteor in frame.
Use the fastest aperture lens possible
To get the best shots of the night sky, your phone needs to be able to gather as much light as possible. Many of the latest smartphones have multiple camera lenses, so choosing the one with the broadest aperture should make stars and meteors brighter in your photos. If your smartphone offers a night mode, you should enable that as well.
Download a long exposure app
Long exposure allows your camera to take multiple shots over a period of time, which is essential for capturing the fleeting nature of meteors. Some free examples include Easy Long Exposure Camera (iPhone) and Long Exposure Camera 2 (Android). High-quality paid apps include Slow Shutter Cam (iPhone) and Night Camera (Android).
Turn off flash and HDR
HDR stands for High Dynamic Range. This setting allows the camera to take multiple shots in a row and combine them to include more light than is visible to the lens in one shot. This can be good for shooting the sky but tends to slow your camera’s capture speed, which adds to the risk that you will miss meteors in the short time they are visible in the sky.
Smartphone flashes are woefully underpowered and will do nothing to help your photo as flashes only work when the light can bounce off a subject to illuminate it. Since meteors are too far away for this to happen, you’ll likely only flash foreground elements or the dark sky, neither of which will help your image. As with all astrophotography, you want to avoid any kind of light pollution, so make sure your flash is turned off.
Don’t use zoom
Not only will zooming in lower the quality of the image if you’re using digital zoom, but even cameras with optical zoom lenses also tend to have much less ability to gather light thanks to a more closed aperture. It’s best to just use the standard focal length that is available with your smartphone’s fastest aperture lens.
Take as many pictures as you can
Ensure there’s enough space on your phone for a lot of images, as you’ll probably need to keep your camera running for a long period of time to get the best shots you can — this is another reason to turn off your flash: it saves battery. Meteors are fleeting, so you’ll want to give yourself every chance of a good picture.
Know your environment
Meteor showers originate from a radiant near their closest constellation – in this case, Lyra. You can use a constellation tracker app to get a good understanding of where Lyra is in the sky before you set your tripod up for the best chance at seeing the stars.
About the author: Tom Peet is a smartphone expert and manager at Repair Outlet, the largest supplier of mobile phone parts in the UK. Repair Outlet is a smartphone parts and refurbished device store dedicated to maximizing the use of every smartphone.
Image credits: All photos licensed via Depositphotos.