The Best Time Of The Month For Milkyway Photos

Hi there,

I’m your local Queenstown Prewedding Specialist Photographer, James Hirata.

Queenstown Milkyway Wedding Photographer

There is ONE major consideration when it comes to booking your Prewedding Shoot with Night Shots under the Milkyway.



I won’t go into explaining the rotation of the earth and the moon etc..

The best time of the month to get the clearest view of the Milkyway, is on a night with a NEW MOON (No Moon).

Let me demonstrate the difference the moon makes in the photos.

Example 1: New Moon (No Moon) + Absolute middle of nowhere (Tekapo)

Example 1: New Moon (No Moon) + Absolute middle of nowhere (Tekapo)

Example 2: New Moon (No Moon), with light pollution from Queenstown city lights.

Example 2: New Moon (No Moon), with light pollution from Queenstown city lights.

Example 3: Half Moon, near Queenstown City.

Example 3: Half Moon, near Queenstown City.

Example 4: Full Moon, 30km from Queenstown city. Milkyway hardly visible, mountains lit by the moon.

Example 4: Full Moon, 30km from Queenstown city. Milkyway hardly visible, mountains lit by the moon.

We basically want to avoid light pollution from the city and the moon, to get the clearest view of the milkyway.

Example 5: Tekapo, Quarter Moon + Light Pollution from township.

Example 5: Tekapo, Quarter Moon + Light Pollution from township.

“So James, how do we find out which night has a NEW MOON?”

It’s simple really, just enter the year and location into the Moon Phase chart on Time &

Once you’ve got the perfect date figured out, we just have to hope for the best with the weather. Fingers crossed!

What to Prepare before visiting Queenstown

So you've chosen to visit New Zealand - great!

The next step is to come prepared, and we've got some great tips for you.

New Zealand Elopement Photographer Queenstown Prewedding

Start taking anti-histamines 2 weeks before coming to New Zealand, to boost your immune system.

The pollen we have in New Zealand are different to what you are used to, and we definitely want to see you smiling, not sneezing! 


Bring a jacket, even in Summer (Novemer~February). 

It can get very cold at night in the South Island, even in summer. Many of our couples ask for our signature Milkyway Shots, and it can get pretty cold for the girls at night in their wedding dresses. 

How to prepare for New Zealand Queenstown PreWedding Photoshoot

Bring Sun-Screen and Moisturisers.

New Zealand happens to be right under the hole in the O-Zone Layer. The sunlight will burn your skin, so be prepared. The Otago region is also very dry, so it is highly recommended to be prepared with moisturisers even for men.

james hirata - custom preset - .jpg

Bring Comfortable Shoes and Clothes. 

Let's think for a second - do you really want to be walking on rocks and sand with high-heels, a bulky dress and a massive veil? Bring a dress that is light, comfortable and airy, and long enough to cover the comfortable sneakers you'll sneak under the dress. 

Tekapo Wedding Photographer

Spend at least one day resting, before the photo shoot. 

Some of our clients in the past have made travel arrangements that are too rushed, and their exhaustion (red eyes, eye-bags, bad posture) will often show up in the photos.

There are beautiful spas in Queenstown and Tekapo, and we suggest giving them a visit before the photo shoot to relax. 

We recommend Onsen Hot Springs in Queenstown and Tekapo Springs. 

Queenstown New Zealand Wedding Elopement Photographer

Find a hotel/Air BnB somewhere not too close to the city. 

In Asia, it's common for good Air BnB units to be found in the city centers, but in New Zealand there are a lot of party-goers near the city center especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

Places out of town will not only be cheaper, but a lot more quieter at night. 

In the Queenstown region, we recommend places near Arrowtown, Frankton, Kelvin Heights and Fern Hill. 

red cat biplane queenstown tekapo new zealand prewedding

Fly with Air New Zealand, not Jetstar.

Jetstar flights to Queenstown will be cheaper than Air New Zealand, but they have frequent flight delays and cancellations. Don’t miss out on your photoshoot because of a flight delay.

(Pic left: Not Air New Zealand!)

Book everything in advance.

Accommodation, activities, tours, restaurants and cars all get booked out very quickly over the peak Holiday Season over December, and prices for many things will also be inflated by up to 2x.

April, June and July are also busy holiday seasons that cause inflation of accommodation and car rental costs.

Get a Sim Card in New Zealand.

Rental Cars in New Zealand don’t come standard with GPS Navigation Systems - Don’t get caught out in the middle of Mordor, have Google Maps and internet access ready.

We recommend Ace Rentals for the best rates on car rentals.


Know the Drone Rules.

If you are bringing a drone to New Zealand, you must fly under the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) rules. Click HERE for more information on the aviation rules.

We also have our own drone that we use for aerial imaging.

Last but not least, Make sure that your photographer has a valid Work Visa or Residency to work in New Zealand, a valid NZ or International Drivers License, and Business Liability Insurance.

Some overseas photographers get caught out by Immigration New Zealand, for coming to the country without a proper Work Visa to carry out the photographic work. 

Without a valid International Drivers License, it will also be impossible to rent and drive a car in New Zealand to get to your locations. 

Lastly, make sure you are protected in the case of major accidents. 

Needless to say, we at James Hirata Photography Ltd are NZ Citizens with valid Full Drivers Licenses, and we have full Business Insurance just in case anything were to happen. 

The Best Time for Photos in New Zealand

Do like the idea of having beautiful photos taken in New Zealand?  We've written about our recommendations for the Best Locations in New Zealand in another article HERE. 

The South Island of New Zealand is beautiful all-year-round, and depending on the timing of your photoshoot, we can take advantage of the many beautiful locations the South Island has to offer.


The most popular time for Pre-Wedding Photoshoots in the South Island is between Late October and Early December (Spring to Early Summer), for a number of good reasons:

  • There's still snow left on the mountains
  • Wild Lupins start blooming all across the region
  • The temperature is just right: Not cold, not hot. 
  • Good and stable weather.
  • The Sun sets late in the evening, at around 9.30pm over the horizon - plenty of time for photos. 

The second most popular time is between April to May (Autumn), for similar reasons:

  • Good and stable weather
  • Many leaves start turning yellow/red in the Queenstown region, and is absolutely beautiful.
  • A little bit of snow fall depending on luck.
  • The temperature is still fine: Not cold yet!

Many of our couples ask for our signature Milkyway Shots. To get the best results, we must time the photoshoot right by checking for the right Moon Phase: During the New Moon, we will get the clearest views of the night sky as there will be no light-pollution from the moon. 

We however cannot guarantee views of the milkyway, as it is highly weather dependent. If we are lucky, we will also be able to see the Southern Lights (Aurora Australis).

The Best Pre-Wedding Locations in New Zealand

The South Island of New Zealand, is one of the best places to go for an adventure, and take beautiful photos and videos. If you are visiting New Zealand for your pre-wedding or honeymoon trip, we'd highly recommend you to consider visiting the Otago Region. 

We have scouted all around the South Island and Otago region for the best locations near:

Queenstown, Arrowtown, Coronet Peak, Glenorchy, Cardrona, Wanaka, Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo. 

New Zealand Heli Wedding Photographer

We also highly recommend Mountain Top Heli Weddings, with the option of having a picnic up on the mountain, or even private ceremony. 

Helicopter Location Options include: Remarkables, Cecil Peak, Isobel Glacier, Lake Erskine, Milford Sound and Roy's Peak. 

Some of our couples also choose Elope and have their Wedding Ceremony in the South Island, instead of doing it in their home countries - this can actually come out cheaper, as there are less guests to entertain! If you are interesting in having your Wedding Ceremony in the Queenstown, Wanaka and Tekapo region, we are more than happy to help you out with organising your dream wedding.

Please click HERE to get in touch with us about planning your Elopement.