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Here's How to Photograph Wednesday Morning's Spectacular Lunar Eclipse

The morning of January 31, people across the United States will have the chance to see not only a lunar eclipse but a lunar eclipse that takes place on the night of a supermoon and a blue moon. Since most of the US will be able to see this celestial event in the morning, you might be thinking about snapping a picture to brag to all your friends who slept through it. (Here are the times you can see it in different parts of the country.)

NASA's Bill Ingalls has offered a few tips for amateur photographers attempting to capture the grandeur of space. 

photograph lunar eclipse
A supermoon over the Lincoln Memorial in 2011. | NASA/Bill Ingalls

How to Photograph the Lunar Eclipse

1. Reference Points
"Don't make the mistake of photographing the moon by itself with no reference to anything," Ingalls said previously about photographing supermoons. “I’ve certainly done it myself, but everyone will get that shot. Instead, think of how to make the image creative—that means tying it into some land-based object. It can be a local landmark or anything to give your photo a sense of place.” 

Ingalls notes that you should think about the angle in advance in order to catch the moon near a specific landmark. 

Having a reference point near the horizon can give the moon scale. A moon hanging in the sky could be any size, but it can look spectacularly vibrant against a reference point. 

2. Use Your Smartphone Wisely
Ingalls says using a smartphone might be frustrating, "yet it may be a good challenge, actually. You’re not going to get a giant moon in your shot, but you can do something more panoramic, including some foreground that’s interesting. Think about being in an urban area where it’s a little bit brighter."

To get things looking right with newer iPhones, he says, "Tap the screen and hold your finger on the object (in this case, the moon) to lock the focus. Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure."

3. Stabilize
It may not be practical for everyone, but Bryan O'Neil Hughes, Director of Product Management and Outreach for Adobe, suggests finding a way to stabilize your camera, even if you're just snapping a quick shot. That means setting up a tripod and blocking the wind if you can. 

"If possible, trigger the shutter remotely or with self-timer to minimize vibration," he says.

4. Get the Best File Possible
"The better the file, the better your experience editing," says O'Neil Hughes. If there's any chance you'll be editing the file in some way, get the highest resolution photo your camera will take. With an SLR, shoot raw. If you're using an iPhone or another smartphone, shoot in HDR. 

Additionally, if you're using a smartphone, don't zoom in. That's going to reduce the quality of your photo. You can always crop the image afterward. 

It's not related to getting a great photo, but you should probably take a little time to appreciate the event without looking through the viewfinder, too. You don't get to see something like this every day. 

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Dustin Nelson is a News Writer with Thrillist. He holds a Guinness World Record but has never met the fingernail lady. Follow him @dlukenelson.