Nikon D3000 Astrophotography help needed


TPF Noob!
Nov 10, 2021
Reaction score
Can others edit my Photos
Photos OK to edit
I am completely new in the photography world and I am borrowing a Nikon D3000 that comes with a Nikkor AF-S DX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR and a Nikon
AF Zoom-NIKKOR 70-300mm f/4-5.6G.

I wanted to try it for astrophotography and I was wondering exactly what settings I need to have in manual mode to take the pictures.

Are you looking to capture deep sky or something like Milky Way?
Are you looking to capture deep sky or something like Milky Way?
They both sound good, I think I will start with general sky and move on to milky way when the conditions are perfect.
There is no one setting. There is a lot that goes into night photography. Time of day, dusk provides more ambient light than the middle of the night. Localized light pollution if a factor. The subject such as taking pictures of the sun or the moon give off more light than a moonless night taking pictures of just the stars.

A recent photo I took of a full moon from my back yard at dusk in a city neighborhood I used the following settings.
ISO: 200
1/60 second

That produced reasonable results. I got a picture of the moon with a few wisps of clouds in front of it.

Back in 2012, I photographed the Venus Transit where we could see Venus moving across the surface of the sun. These images were taken before sunset, obviously, but I had to us a special filter for the purpose so I did not burn out my sensor or my eyes. The settings for that one were:
ISO: 200
1/5000 sec

I could have used a smaller opening say f/16 ort f/32 and adjust the shutter speed but this was working for me and I did not see the need to change what was working during a photo shoot. Experimentation is key. If you are looking to do some astro photography, you might start by play with your camera settings in the evening hours and in the night time hours to get a feel for it.
Last edited:
For deep sky, i.e. trying to photograph a galaxy or nebula, you'll need more than what you have. You simply can't get enough exposure without a drive mechanism to keep your camera aligned to the subject as the Earth rotates. Even then, you'll need a number of exposures that will have to be stacked in software.

You can get decent Milky Way shots with exposures up to 20 or 30 seconds and the smaller lens on its widest zoom, 18mm, while set up in a VERY DARK place well away from any artificial lights like buildings, highways, and so on. Any longer exposure or longer focal length and you get stars as streaks instead of points. Even then your results will be better with multiple images stacked in software. However, the Milky Way is now in the same area of the sky with the sun, as the Earth goes through this part of its orbit, and you won't really be able to get Milky Way shots again until late February at the earliest, and that's marginal.

To start out, find a place you can get to, well out of town, a tripod, and either a remote shutter trigger or at least the camera's self timer so any motion from pushing the shutter button settles out before the shutter opens. You'll want to set a wide-open aperture, at least 15 seconds but no more than 30 seconds exposure time, and what ISO you use depends on the shutter time you use and how much noise you can tolerate and eventually filter out in post. (This is where stacking multiple images does wonders.) You'll also find that at default white-balance settings the images will have a distinctly brown cast, rather than actualy black or dark gray sky, again something you'll have to fix on the computer, probably. I don't know what white balance settings are actually available on the D3000, which is the most basic possible consumer DSLR in Nikon's line.
A great site to learn about how to shoot Milky Way is lonelyspeck. I got started with astro based on the free info provided there.
I suggest you start with the moon, it is big, bright, and easy to find. You will need a long lens to capture it. You will also learn a lot about the manual settings of your camera.

I have coupled my camera to my telescope with simple camera adapters from eBay. For the moon shot shown below. It was relative easy. for the Saturn shot it was very time consuming and not very fruitful. I do not have a tracking mechanism.

As already mentioned to shoot items like galaxies and nebulae you need need some sort of clock work tracking devise to allow long exposures. However, the night sky, the Milky way and Constellation shots are a bit easier, all you need is a tripod.

The biggest issue with any night sky photography is sky glow. Finding a truly dark skies location can be difficult and it will be somewhat isolated. I Google search may find one close by.

Good luck

Moon w scope.JPG
15 Saturn 1 Prime x2.JPG
Stars start here: 18mm wide open, ISO 1600 (max for your camera) 20 seconds, if you don't want the stars to start to turn into streaks. Infinity isn't just rack the lens to the end, you should focus on a dot in the distance, which may be slightly less than all the way. Color balance incandescent. That's a single frame. You will probably need to edit hot pixels, at least that's my experience.

If you take a sequence of images: will blend them into one image. Something like this.

Single frame Perseids, Canon 20-D because I'm not going to burn up one of my better cameras doing 30 second exposures, for hours and hours. Can't remember which lens, (I do have notes :uncomfortableness: somewhere) I'll guess 8mm

The Moon is much brighter than it looks, start by exposing and checking what you have, I think you'll be surprised how much light from the Sun is reflecting off the Moon. Meaning lower ISO, shorter exposure and you'll have a starting point.

Best part is electrons cost almost nothing, you can try all different ways to shoot and if you don't like them, there's always the Delete button.
Mention of the moon... it's actually daylight exposure, not night shooting. Don't meter the moon with autoexposure unless you're spot-metering, and I don't know if the D3000 has that. Regardless, the moon is fully sunlit, and should be treated as such. Treating it as a night-time object will get you a washed-out white blob.

Most reactions

New Topics