Spectacular Wedding Photo Showing the Milky Way Floating Overhead

Melbourne, Australia-based wedding photographer Lakshal Perera shot this stunning wedding photograph a few days ago showing the newlywed couple in the foreground and the Milky Way floating in the night sky. The scene was extremely dim, allowing for a clear view of the sky. Perera captured it in a single exposure using a Canon 5D Mark III and 16-35 f/2.8L lens at 17mm, 71 seconds of exposure, f/5.6, and ISO boosted up to 4000 (wow). The couple is relatively sharp given that they had to stand still for 71 seconds!

If you want to shoot something similar, here’s a tip: this is the perfect situation to have a graduated neutral density filter handy. Use the filter to properly expose both the dimmer stars above and the brighter lights below.

If you don’t want to drop money on a filter, try looking into the black card technique:

Basically, black card photography uses a black card (could be anything that is dark with a characteristic of not refecting lights) to shelter the brighter area of an image allowing the darker area a longer exposure and the result is a balanced exposure. Compare to gradient graduated ND filter application and HDRI, black card photography can handle a greater dynamic range of luminance and it can be done without computer software post-editing which usually disqualifies a great photo from a photo contest.

Take your black card, and cover up the bottom portion of this shot for a short period of time so that it doesn’t get blown out while you’re trying to properly expose the stars.

(via Lakshal Perera via My Modern Met)

P.S. In case you missed it: yesterday we shared a similar photo of a family posing with the Milky Way.

Image credit: Photograph by Lakshal Perera

  • Tanja Schulte

    when i shot the sky for 71 seconds her in europe i will never see something like that. :(

  • Samuel

    I’ve never got anything like with identical settings, damn light pollution :(

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    Ditto. We drove two hours outside of San Francisco but still didn’t get skies anywhere near that.

  • Joey Duncan

    Ya, I’ve spoke with a few people about getting good milky way shots, I live here in California and I’ts pretty much not possible unless you’re above what seems like 8-9 thousand feet and FAR FAR away from the city. I know there are exceptions but I’ve shot 100 or so night shots and NEVER seen color int he milky way. This pic is awesome, and when i got to Yosemite soon I will attempt is. I know people have been able to get it there.

  • Jeremy Madore

    71 seconds is far too long to be photographing the Milky Way with, regardless of focal length. While this image is certainly more exposed than many other star shots I’ve seen, the stars have already begun to elongate and streak. The entire wedding area is blown out, and the WB of the whole photo is off.

    This is an example of a good creative vision, but horrible execution.

  • harumph

    If you go north about an hour and half to Austin Creek State Recreational Area (and pretty much anywhere further north of there), you can find easily accessible peaks close to 3000 ft. that give a crystal clear view of the sky (assuming there’s no clouds or fog) with hardly any ambient light. You can barely see your hand in front of your face out there. Once you’re clear of Santa Rosa, it’s pretty easy to find the areas with no ambient light. I’ve never tried to take Milky Way shots, but it seems like the closest ideal spot.

  • Tanja Schulte

    ah yeah critizing is so damn easy… would like to see your milky way shots!

  • nickg

    Grad NDs, black cards… just turn the lights off after 20 seconds. Or 5, or 10 – the exposure for the stars shouldn’t be longer than 30 sec. As some one else said, after that they streak.

  • snapshot1

    I am constantly annoyed at this “yeah what are you doing” defense when someone points out inferior or unsuccessful attempt at something. This is the problem with new young artists in this digital age. Just because something is done doesn’t make good or art. Making is not art. When someone points this out critically, they don’t have to “prove” with their own attempt, because once again, solely making something doesn’t mean it’s good.

    Now I do find this image interesting, but it’s just a really a good test that should never be shown in public until what it’s lacking is figured out with another attempt. To me it looks like milky way clip art montage with a really bad photo of a shed. That’s why it fails. It is a good creative idea but lacking in execution like Jeremy said.

  • Jeremy Madore

    I don’t post my Milky Way shots, because they suck. And I’m honest about it. I’d never try to pass them off as art because the execution is quite flawed. Does a photo need to be perfect technically to be considered art? No, it clearly does not. However, when the issues of the photograph leave the viewer wondering what went wrong rather than appreciating the message… I’d hardly call it art.

  • Tanja Schulte

    well i don´t think it´s unsuccessfull.
    i agree the wedding area is blown out. there is no arguing about it.
    im sure it can be done better. and i have seen better ones.
    but hell… 90% of all images on facebook and flickr are S H I T when you like to set high standards.
    compared to boring dog shots or “here are my kids on the beach” shots i have seen…. this one has something.

  • Jeremy Madore

    Right, it does have something. And it’s not common to see an attempt at this, mostly due to light pollution invading the serenity of an outdoor (at night) wedding.

    But it still doesn’t fix the ellipse stars, the blown out wedding tent and the white balance issues. Surely, the photographer must have had an under-exposed test shot that he could have taken the bottom portion from??

  • Ken Lee

    I completely agree with Jeremy in his assessment and his responses. It’s a great idea, but the couple is blown out, and the stars are streaked. I usually go for 20 seconds, 30 seconds tops, since after that stars do streak.

    Jeremy knows exactly what he’s talking about. And even if he does not have Milky Way shots that he can show, that doesn’t change the fact that he is right. And by the way, I do night sky photography, and yes, I do have the photos to show for it.

  • Ken Lee

    And by the way, I actually do like the shot, even if it is flawed, and it’s a really interesting approach. I’ve had people stand still for ten seconds, doing long exposure shots in Sonoma, and it creates a very dreamy surreal sort of atmosphere, and including people in even longer exposures of night sky photography is a cool idea. But as Jeremy points out, it does have some issues that detract from the photograph.

  • Bua

    This is kewl because the couple look elongated like aliens under a different planet etc. Very ethereal feel. Well done especially in a wedding setting where things are moving fast and you forget to be truly creative.

  • Jake

    Maybe the point of photography isn’t to impress everybody. Maybe it’s only to impress a few people. I took a Milky Way shot and posted it on Facebook recently. I figured the shot was par at best, but a lot of my friends loved it, and it made them happy to see it. I don’t need to win awards as a photographer or be the best, I just want to bring some joy into peoples’ lives and show them something new.

  • Anthony

    hum lots of movement in those stars maybe 15 or 20 sec exposure would have been better at say f2.8 with focus on the stars. but I like the idea