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How To Take an Astrophotography Self Portrait With Light

"Distant Lands", Michael Goh (Astrophotobear)

Ever since I posted “Distant Lands” – how I’ve done the lighting remains a regular question that I’m asked.

How do I take an astrophotography self portrait?

The issue is around getting consistent lighting for a self portrait across a panorama with artificial lighting (the light source held by myself – the exploring figure).  I’ve probably over done the explorer – but I like getting out to different locations.  I am constantly trying different ideas when I’m out shooting, but it’s always important to get a “normal” shot.  There are lots of other techniques and variations happening in the background that may not be readily evident.

In terms of self portrait images – I’d already done the figure holding a torch light beaming light into the skies.  I went out to try something else that night with light painting techniques that didn’t work out so well for me (I was trying to do a a teleporter like Greg Gibbs “beam me up” – but I at the time was thinking about the logistics for a panorama, I’m sure that where I’m at now though – I’d be able to do something).  This is where one of my philosophies of knowing as many techniques as possible came into play.   I’m quite comfortable shooting with Speedlites and had a Gary Fong Lightsphere (amongst many other light modifiers) with me.  First attempt – you can imagine it was take photo – go back to spot – take next photo.  Thankfully I’ve got several tripods (and light stands, etc.).

How to do it!

So, how the process goes now is:

  1. Work out the composition. In a sufficiently dark location you can see the Milky Way band and for a panorama can work out where to appropriately stand.  I take note about breathing space and light pollution sources.
  2. Take the key frame with myself in it.
  3. Replace myself with a tripod and put the light on top.
  4. Take the rest of the panorama.


To demonstrate in terms of the imaging and processing, I’ve made this video:

Note: You can see the original article on my website.

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About the author

Michael Goh

According to Michael Goh (a.k.a. Astrophotobear), there are no photography secrets – if it’s reasonably within his capacity to help others, he will. He believes that blogging with his techniques and experiments is one of the better ways of effectively doing so.

Michael is a recipient of many awards, including photonightscape awards nightscape category winner, astrofest best astrophoto, honourable mention for wide-field astrophoto CWAS David Malin Awards, Ice-In-Space calendar Nightscape-Widefield category winner, and camera house Photo Friday Landscape winner.

Learn more about Michael on his website


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  • Is field rotation an issue when taking a panorama such as this? Does the stitching make up for it? Lastly, is there a certain order you take the photos to minimize field rotation?

    By the way, amazing photos!

    • what Cory said 😉 sorry – been sick. I’ll have to confess I tend to shoot it clockwise (rotating with the Earth) – out of habit due to thinking about it when I started doing panoramas. But the blending process effectively blends it together anyway. Just don’t take too much time between shots 😉

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