Planning before taking images is essential for star photography and any other type of night sky photography.
A brief overview of each topic is provided below, but even more detail can be found on the Scouting & Planning for Star, Night Sky Photography Page.
The following videos cover my step-by-step planning technique for star photography.
Calculate the Moon Phase
dark skies are essential for star photography.
Even a small crescent moon provides enough light to makeing the brightness of the stars, as seen by your camera.
This means you want to taking the picture when there isn’t a moon in the sky.
During the New Moon Phase, the moon can not be seen in the sky.
In most cases, 5 days before and after the New Moon are the best times.
This will change slightly depending on where you live on earth and the time of year.
Find the current moon phase, here, and determine your trip dates from this information.
Find Dark Skies without Lights
Blue Marble Lights on the Map is great for finding areas without lights.
Black areas on the map are great for clicking pictures the night sky, while white areas on the map are lights and should move.
Find Clear Skies & Predict the Weather
You don’t need perfectly clear skies to get great images of the stars and night sky.
I actually prefer to have some clouds in the sky because they add to the composition and “interestingness” of the scene.
Aiming for nights with 0-50% cloud cover will yield the best results.
There are many different methods I use to plan for this.
The first video above covers my methods, step by step.
Determine Moonrise & Moonset Times
Use the moonrise and moonset times in Photographers Ephemeris (TPE), linked below, to choose the best time take the picture.
Generally, 1-2 hours after sunset or moonset the skies are dark enough for star photography.
This darkness will start to fade 1-2 hours before moonrise or sunrise.
TPE also provides precise sunrise, sunset, and twilight times as well as moonrise and moonset times.
Learn to Use Maps
It’s also one of the best ways to visualize the topographical layout of a location prior to arriving.
Out of all the tools on this page, Maps / Earth is where I spend the most time.