Top 10 astrophotography mistakes

Astrophotography is a challenging hobby. With so many things to keep in mind and to sort out, one is bound to make some (obvious) mistakes. And they are really silly ones in most cases. At least, I certainly make plenty of silly mistakes ;).
When in Namibia and spending so many hours under the clear night sky doing astrophotography, I made all the obvious mistakes I can think of. And then some…

So here are my top 10 astrophotography mistakes;

  1. Leaving the Bhatinov mask on your scope
  2. It is SO easy to forget taking off the Bahtinov mask when you are (re) focussing. Carefully inspecting your focus, adjusting, carefully inspecting again, your done! Then, 45 minutes later when you want to check focus again. Doh! 45 minutes of exposures that at least show you if you were in focus or not 😛

  3. Forget to change the ISO setting back
  4. Another one that’s easy to forget: ISO settings. For initial framing of the subject and for adjusting focus I most often crank up the ISO so you need shorter exposures to see focus or the composition. But…… don’t forget to set the ISO back to your desired recording setting when starting your imaging sequence!

  5. Forget to turn back on a camera
  6. Sounds really obvious and silly doesn’t it? Make sure your camera’s are on. Well, made this mistake several times with my duo set-up. As I’m controlling both my camera’s with the Lacerta MGEN, I usually turned the Nikon D5100 off when checking focus of the scope on the Nikon D600. And when framing the composition with the D5100, I would turn the D600 of. Well, you can guess what happened here. Several times. Coming back after 1 hour to check focus and check your frames, only to discover the camera was still off….. ouch!

    After focus adjustment always check ISO setting and remove Bhatinov
    After focus adjustment always check ISO setting and remove Bhatinov
  7. Forget to change aperture
  8. The great thing about DSLR’s is you can use them for daytime photography too! Just don’t forget to change back your settings when you’ve used a dslr during the day and then use it again at night for astrophotography. Forgetting to adjust the aperture setting made me image the Rho Ophiuchi region at F7.1 when I was on La Palma 😛

  9. Forget to change Long Exposure Noise Reduction back to off
  10. When shooting single exposure night scapes I always use the Long Exposure Noise Reduction setting, as it takes not to much time and greatly reduces the thermal noise in the resulting image. Just don’t forget to change this setting when you connect the DSLR to your scope again and start doing long exposures!

  11. Image format: JPG
  12. This happened to me once; had been shooting some tests in JPG and forgot to put it back to RAW when starting the astrophotography session that night. A whole night of JPG image was the result. Still usable of course, but not at all ideal…

  13. Star alignment on the wrong star
  14. This one has minor consequences, as you will notice your mistake right when you do you first GoTo, but is easily made; Telling your mount it is aligned to a certain star, when in fact you are pointed to a whole different star!
    This is why I try to choose a double star most of the time, so I can be sure I’m pointing at the right alignment star when checking it through live view.

  15. Forget a crucial cable or other required piece of equipment
  16. This brings back bad memories, lol. I remember one time driving 2 hours to a dark site only to discover there I forgot the cable to power my Astrotrac with the power tank. And the battery pack didn’t work.
    Or that time I drove 30 minutes to my regular spot, again to use the Astrotrac, and discover I forgot the polar scope. Somehow forgetting crucial gear only happens to me when using the Astrotrac….. hmmmm.

  17. Keep using that one flimsy cable
  18. Note to self: if a cable is not working perfectly, just replace it!
    Happened to me a few times with a power cable that got easily disconnected. I kept using it as a power cable for the mount. When it just disconnects itself in the middle of an imaging sequence it’s quite annoying to say the least!

  19. Forget all about meridian flip
  20. I always stay up and awake when I do my imaging. Especially after this one time that I didn’t and I woke up a few hours later because of a very weird sound coming from my garden. Turned out to be the NEQ6 that was pushing my Newton to the tripod legs. And kept pushing, and kept pushing. OUCh! Luckily nothing was broken or damaged, but it scared the #@#$ out of me!

Ok, I feel so stupid right now….;)
Would love to hear some of the (obvious) mistakes you guys made in the past, share in the comments!


  • Gert-Jan Rodenburg

    Trying to figure out why I can’t seem to find any guide stars… Lens cap. At least this happens on extra planetary landers too, so in good company on that one…

  • Lovro

    My friend once forgot his mount and figure it out after 2 h drive to site. xD

  • Last week I went though 2+ hours of imaging only to find that there was no card in the camera.

  • This article has made me feel a lot better about my own “experiences”…those times when I face-palm myself for totally botching an imaging session for these exact same reasons. 🙂 Especially #1 and #2 which happened quite recently.

  • Andrew

    How about don’t forget to charge your camera ? 😄 Happened to me once. Plugged the charger in but forgot to flip the socket switch… bloody UK power sockets…

  • Hamza

    very nice list, i think i have done all of it in my experience. One of the frustrating moment of my existence is when i could’t guide because i swapped the RA and Dec motor cable on my G11, it was a moment of complete frustration since EVERYTHING you try does not help the situation.

    Had a laugh, keep your content coming, you are benefiting the community greatly and I thank you for your time.

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