How To Photograph Star Trails

Star Trails Photography

This article will teach you how to shoot star trails using any DSLR camera. There are really two ways this can be done; this article will cover both.


To do star trails, you will need a DSLR camera, a tripod, and a shutter release cable or intervalometer. Using a wide angle lens is recommended, but the kit lens that came with your camera will work too.

Find an interesting spot to shoot first. It would be a good idea to find out where the Polaris (north star) is as all stars will rotate around that.

Use your tripod and make sure you know how to focus at night.

Make sure the skies will be clear.

Recommended Camera Settings

  • f/stop ideally would be f/2.8 but a kits lens with f/3.5 will be fine.
  • ISO starting point would be 800, but you can increase it to 3200 depending on the moon and ambient light.
  • Make sure your lens is wide open if you are a beginner; don’t zoom in until you get the hang of this.

Option 1 Shutter Release Cable

If you do not have a shutter release cable, you can find one on eBay or Amazon for a very reasonable price.

Attach the shutter release cable to your camera, and then hold the trigger for 6 – 30 minutes…. or longer!

This will give you a single image with a long star trail in it.

Option 2 Stacking Images

If you have an external or internal intervalometer you can choose to take multiple shorter images and stack them together.

The advantage with this option is that you can use a flashlight and ‘paint’ a subject in just one of the images and it will show up on the final stacked image.

  • Using the same setting options above set your intervalometer to take shots at 20-second exposures each time, with little or no break in between intervals, for 6 – 30 mins (or longer).
  • Once you have taken all your images download the StarStax program here
  • This program will allow you to stack all your images and create a stunning star trails image for you.

The image at the top of this article was shot with 88 stacked images using StarStax. I also went inside the house and light up the inside for one of the exposures and lit the outside on another exposure. My settings were f/2.8 and ISO 1600 for 20 seconds each exposure.

By Chris Attrell

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