Astronaut Chris Hadfield Explains How to Take Pictures of Earth from Space

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield has been serving as one of the International Space Station’s resident photographers. Every day he posts beautiful photographs showing what our planet looks like from orbit to his Twitter account, @cmdr_hadfield.

Today the Canadian Space Agency released the video above, in which Hadfield takes the time to explain how to best photograph Earth’s landscape from 400km (~250 miles) above the surface.


Hadfield says that for detailed shots, you’ll need to use a long telephoto lens. He often shoots with a Nikon 400mm f/2.8.


Since light reflecting off the surface of the Earth is quite bright and space is quite black, photographing from the ISS presents challenges that are similar to shooting in snowy white environments. To prevent his camera from getting confused and underexposing scenes, Hadfield often shoots in manual mode.

He says he uses the Sunny 16 rule, which says “On a sunny day set aperture to f/16 and shutter speed to the reciprocal of the ISO film speed/setting for a subject in direct sunlight.

In order words, after fixing his aperture at f/16, Hadfield chooses an appropriate ISO setting and then bases his shutter speed off that number. He commonly uses ISO 200, so his shutter speed is often 1/200s.


Here are some of the beautiful photographs Hadfield has captured from space so far:




The beauty of the Bahamas is surreal; every blue that exists.




Thanks for sending in the tip, Ross!

Image credits: Photographs by Chris Hadfield/Canadian Space Agency

  • Sarah Bugeja Kissaun

    Surely useful tips for when I go to space! Haha :)

    The second picture looks like a lung with the bronchi…

  • Igor Ken

    Google space view

  • Anthony Burokas

    and here I thought he’s say something like letting the camera float in space for jitter-free images- as opposed to handheld at 400mm. :)

  • chubbs

    If you don’t already follow Col. had field on tumblr or Twitter, I strongly suggest you do. He’s always got daily offerings of photos!!!

  • Pete Charlesworth

    shooting the sahara with a 14-24 from that high up? :)) – awesome vid tho… love it

  • Adam Cross

    The first particle is definitely INSIDE the ISS, if you watch the video with your eyes open you see it go past the frame of the window and towards Chris’ face. If it were outside it would disappear behind the window frame and appear at the other window – it doesn’t.