16 Stellar Accessories for Astrophotography

2Share
16 Stellar Accessories for Astrophotography

There are a few genres of photography in which accessories are crucial to photographic success. Astrophotography is one of those genres! Let’s take a look at some great astrophotography accessories to help you (or your favorite stargazing photographer) elevate your Astro-photo game deeper into the night sky.

Here is a list of top astrophotography accessories:

Binoculars

Binoculars

You may think this is an oddball choice for a number 1 astrophotography accessory, but, if you are doing astrophotography and you love stars, there is no better, or easier way, to soak in the night sky than with a pair of binoculars… while your camera is hard at work capturing the stars above. Check out our three-part series on astronomical binoculars.

Tripods

Tripods

Along with a camera, the tripod is a must-have astrophotography accessory. If you have dabbled in astrophotography with a lightweight, travel tripod and want to up your star photography game, you may want to invest in a larger and more stable support for your gear.

Star Tracker

Star Tracker

While it is possible to get compelling and beautiful wide-field / wide-angle photographs of the Milky Way, starscapes, and stunning landscapes with stars above without a star tracker, adding tracking capability to your rig is a total game changer. A star tracker lets you take longer exposures of the night sky without experiencing trailing stars. This allows for longer nighttime exposures that reveal dimmer stars and deep sky objects like nebulae.

Light Pollution Filters

Light Pollution Filters

We live on a very (artificially) bright planet. While the electric lantern revolutionized the world, it also crushed our views of the night sky by eliminating dark skies for many of us. Although they won’t make a city sky dark, light pollution filters can clean up the night skies a bit. Years ago, we put nine different LiPo filters to the test and many more have made it to market since then.

Telescope Focusing Masks

Telescope Focusing Masks

Designed primarily for telescopes, but equally at home on a photographic telephoto lens, these simple focusing masks help you achieve precision focus on stars and planets in the night sky. They are popularly known as “Bahtinov Masks” after their Russian amateur astronomer-inventor Pavel Bahtinov, who originated the invention in 2005. These plastic plates cover the objective lens and intentionally form diffraction spikes around bright stars. Stars, with the diffraction spikes, appear larger in the viewfinder or LCD screen, and focusing is easier than with a “bare” star.

Remote Shutter Releases

Remote Shutter Releases

Vibration is one of several enemies of astrophotography. Depressing the shutter release on the camera, even with the beefiest of tripods and tripod heads, will impart movement into your rig and result in less than sharp images. To combat this, you should always use a remote shutter release. Some releases have additional electronic functionality for things like delayed capture or interval shooting. If you don’t have a release handy, use your camera’s self-timer in a pinch.

Camera and Tripod Leveler

Camera & Tripod Leveler

Crucial to the setup of an astrophotography rig with a star tracker on board is having your kit level. While you can adjust the legs of a tripod individually to achieve level, a tripod leveler makes the task much easier. You can set up your tripod rapidly and use the leveler to fine-tune your tracker to the horizon. Be sure to note that these levelers have different payload limitations, so pay attention to the weight of your tracker, lens, camera, and accessories.

Tripod Hammock / Utility Apron

Tripod Hammock / Utility Apron

One way to add stability to any tripod is to add weight to the rig. One of the most utilitarian and effective methods of doing that is with a tripod hammock or utility apron. By using a hammock or apron, you can add stabilizing weight to your tripod and, simultaneously, have a convenient place to put “stuff”—accessories like flashlights, other lenses/eyepieces, etc.—a win-win!

Tripod Anti-Vibration Pads

Tripod Anti-Vibration Pads

Again we get help in the constant battle against vibration—this time in the form of tripod anti-vibration pads. These rubber pads further damp your existing tripod feet and help keep your rig rock steady during long telephoto exposures.

Flashlights

Flashlights

The best astrophotography is done in the dark of night (except solar photography), but you’ll need a way to see where you are going and to make sure you don’t accidentally kick your tripod. Flashlights are soooo much cooler than they used to be; they can be high tech, super bright, rugged, or just plain everyday carry cool. For astrophotography, you will want one that has either a red lens or a red LED/light so you can preserve your night vision when working in the dark.

Headlamps

Headlamps

When you head out into the dark to set up your astrophotography rig, you’ll likely be carrying the aforementioned flashlight between your teeth or uselessly inside your pants pocket. A headlamp gives you the functionality of a flashlight—hands free. Get one that has a red lens or lamp so you can use both hands to carry and set up your astrophotography rig.

Dew Heaters & Controllers

Dew Heaters & Controllers

Dew happens. At night. While you are shooting stars. All over your lens. Ruining your photos. To combat this, dew heaters and controllers can keep your optics warm and free of settling moisture from the air. Some of these heaters are designed for specific scopes. For photographic lenses, or scopes where a heater isn’t specifically engineered, there are some more “universal” solutions.

Hand Warmers

Hand Warmers

For those of us astro-photographers who suffer from chronically cold—Raynaud’s disease hands (and feet)—hand warmers are the game changers of game changers. The ability to keep your hands warm can make all the difference in enjoying a night out under the stars or being miserable and uncomfortable. Some of these come in the dual-purpose form of flashlights or power packs. Of course, you’ll want a good pair of photography gloves as well. See our test of many pairs of gloves here.

Beanie

Beanie

Now that your hands are warm, you need to keep your head warm—especially if you have no hair to do the job! Yep, we sell beanies and some have built-in LED headlamps!

Folding Stool

Folding Stool

Sometimes astrophotography means long hours on your feet while your camera and optics do their thing. If you are lucky, you will have a place to sit down. If you are prepared to be lucky, you can bring your own folding stool so you can get off your feet occasionally through the long nights.

Photographer’s Multi-Tool

Photographer’s Multi-Tool

In the field screws get loose, things need tightening, cans need opening, and tripods need adjusting. Enter the ubiquitous multi-tool. While the folding plier multi-tool took the “Swiss Army Knife” to new horizons, there are some smaller and simpler tools specifically designed for photographers with a basic hex key and screwdriver head—perfect for tripod adjustments and affixing quick-release plates to your camera or lens.

Do you have questions about our choices for great astrophotography accessories? Do you have an awesome accessory that you would like to share with our readers? Let us know in the Comments section, below.

2 Comments

Wow. B&H goes deeper into some topics than (late, lamented) PopPhoto ever did! I'm impressed, Todd. Just when I think I have a solid concept of just how much gear B&H carries, I find out about…Tripod Anti-Vibration Pads. Multiple brands and models, even!  Can't say I'll be rushing out to buy vibration pads anytime soon…but I will point out a remarkable feature of the Losmandy anti-vibration pads: "Glows in the Dark for up to 15 Hours"



I wish more companies would be like Losmandy, whoever they are. Or I wish Losmandy would make more camera stuff. Because I would definitely pay a little more to get glow-in-the-dark gear for my night photography.



What percentage of gear sold by B&H is black? 90%? Black tripods, black cameras, black lenses (except for Canon L's), black backpacks… Am I the only night photographer who has ever put something small, expensive, and black down on the ground during a shoot? It's a disaster.



I'm now a big, big fan of Bahtinov masks. I had my doubts about putting something so obviously goofy in front of my camera lens, but they really do help focus (and on a cold night, the infinity ∞ symbol on many lenses is no longer perfect). A big part of my early hesitation came from a silly misunderstanding: I had thought you left the mask on the lens, like any other filter! But you only put the mask on for a moment to focus the lens on the brightest star (or distant lighthouse, etc). And then you put it down on the dark grass while you photograph the stars.



Ha ha! My Bahtinov mask is made from day-glow orange plastic! So I actually have a decent chance of recovering mine. But all the ones I see from B&H are black plastic.



So I guess the one awesome accessory I'd recommend would be: little safety reflectors, plastic or fabric. Most jogging or cycling stores carry them. I suppose even plain white satin ribbon would work in a pinch. Tie something highly visible to your tripod, L-bracket, car keys, Bahtinov Mask, camera bag, and other gear you don't want to leave out there in the dark.

Hello Artie,

Thanks for reading and thanks for the kind words!

Vibration pads are HOT! Get yours before they go out of stock! :)

Have you bought glow-in-the-dark paint for your gear?

We don't sell the paint, but we do have a lot of glow-in-the-dark gear including tape to wrap around your tripod legs, Bahtinov mask, and anything else. There is also a glow-in-the-dark ukulele to play while your camera is doing long exposures. :)

Reflective tape was definitely a part of my first real tripod, but I haven't ever put it on my carbon tripods for some reason. Maybe that will be a nice evening project! Thanks for the idea!

And, thanks for reading!

Best,

Todd