How to Photograph the Geminid Meteor Shower

Geminid meteor Shower is expected to be one of the best meteor displays of the year. We will walk you through all the shooting and editing steps necessary to capture this meteor shower.

Each year, the Geminid meteor shower occurs around December middle. They will peak around the 13th or 14th of December 2021. It is believed that the Geminids are the only annual meteor shower that doesn’t originate directly from a comet.

Photographers have the advantage of being able to photograph the Geminids, as they are one of the most consistent meteor Showers throughout the year. They can produce between 120 and 160 meteors per hour. Photographing a meteor shower is not easy. We must not only capture clear images of the night sky, which can lead to problems like focusing and achieving sharp shots in long exposures. But we also need to ensure that we are taking photos while a meteor is overhead.

We are here to help. We will be guiding you through the best methods for finding meteors, determining the weather conditions to maximize the chances of seeing Geminids, as well as a list of items to bring along and the best settings for your camera to get some great shots. After that, we’ll take a look at how to make a composite from your best images using editing software. Let’s get started by determining the direction that our camera should point.

How to Find the Gemenid Meteor Shower

The Geminids will be most visible around Gemini constellation, as the name implies. However, they may also be visible a few more days to either side. Gemini will be visible above the horizon in the northeastern part of the world at this time of the year. If you need to know the exact direction, you can use a nightsky app on your smartphone or computer to find it. Stellarium is a great app for mobile and desktop. It’s simple to use, easy to navigate, and allows you to quickly jump through dates and time to find the meteor shower or constellation.

Person holding phone next to laptop with astro software on it

You don’t have to rely on tech. The stars can be used to navigate to Gemini. Look for Ursa Major in the northern hemisphere. From there, draw a line starting at Merak and moving up to Dubhe. Then continue on until you reach the brightest star. This is known as Polaris or the north star and forms the tail for Ursa Minor. You can easily find northeast from here.

What equipment is required to photograph the Gemenid Meteor shower?

Although it may be tempting to grab your camera and head out into the great outdoors without thinking about it, winter in the northern hemisphere means that it is cold and dark. Before we leave, there are certain essentials that we should have.

A flat lay image of a wide angle lens, intervalometer, and a tripod on a wooden floor

To photograph the Geminids, a tripod is essential. It is necessary to hold the camera steady over long exposures. I recommend using a tripod with a ballhead to allow for a wide range of angles. A wide-angle lens with a focal length of 24mm or more is best as the Geminids are visible in the night sky. A wide-angle lens with a large aperture, such as f/2.8, is a good choice.

How to photograph meteors

Technique-wise, we will be taking lots of photos one after another with the hope of capturing meteors in some of them. It is possible to combine the frames in the image editing software to create one photo that combines all of the best photos.

Person checking weather forecast on laptop

A simple external shutter release can be used to fire your camera, even if it has an interval timer. If you don’t own a separate shutter release, the self-timer function can be used in an emergency. This is done to reduce camera shake blur and vibrations. If your camera does not have an intervalometer built in, you can opt for an external one that will trigger the camera remotely and capture a series of images, one after another, without you having to press the buttons.

Keep an eye on the weather

It doesn’t matter in which direction you look, as the meteors will be hidden from your sight. To avoid unnecessary travel time, make sure you check the weather forecast before you leave, especially if you are traveling long distances to avoid light pollution.

Rear LCD view of Nikon D850 displaying settings for capturing meteor shower

Weather forecasts tend to be more local than local so they may not always be very useful for certain local areas. This means that it is worth going out if you have the chance to view and photograph without cloud cover.

Recommended Camera Settings to Photograph the Geminid Meteor Shower

This shoot should be done in manual mode. Other semi-automatic modes such as shutter or aperture priority can change exposure settings during long shoots based on cloud cover or light pollution. It is difficult to combine photos later in editing software. Shoot in manual mode to keep the shots consistent.

Manually focusing a wide-angle lens

Camera settings are affected by the amount of darkness in the sky, extraneous light pollution and the maximum aperture value of your lens. An aperture of f/2.8 with a 5-second shutter speed and ISO1000 are good starting settings. Long exposure noise reduction should be turned off. To ensure consistent colors, it might be a good idea also to lock your white balanced. To reduce light pollution, you can use Fluorescent or Tungsten white balances. Remember to shoot raw if necessary.

Stay Focused

Autofocus is notoriously not able to focus in low light. This makes it nearly impossible to see the night sky. We will instead manually focus to get the best results. Live view can be activated on the rear screen. You can aim for a bright star, or a distant street light. You can switch to manual focus on your lens or camera body, and zoom in on the star using the digital magnification function on most digital cameras. Adjust the focus ring manually until the star appears as small as possible.

How to edit photos of the Geminid Meteor shower

This can be done in any layer-based image editor software. However, we will show you how to do it with Adobe Photoshop. Open Photoshop and import your images. Go to Fil e> Scripts> Load Files into Stack. Navigate to the images that show meteors clearly and click “OK.”

Meteor shower composite image being put together in Photoshop

Once you have all the layers laid on top of each other, change the blending settings for all layers to “Lighten.” To do so on multiple layers, set the blending mode for one layer to Lighten, then right-click on it and select copy layer style. Next, Shift + click the layers. Then choose paste layer style. The stars may have rotated if there has been a long time between frames. This could be visible in the composite. To fix this issue, you can add a layer mask on the layers that are affected. Mask in the meteor only so it is visible.

You can make any adjustments that are required by using new fill layers or adjustment layers. Save it as a Photoshop Document for online sharing. You can save the PSD file as well to make it easier to access later. This is especially useful if you are new to editing images or don’t feel confident enough to modify an image you like.