6 tips for photographing the 2017 solar eclipse with cameras, smartphones

Thursday , August 17, 2017 - 9:57 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

As the Great American Eclipse cuts its way across the country Aug. 21, it’s only natural you’ll want to capture the moment.

And if you’re wondering how to take the best photos of the 2017 solar eclipse, you’re not alone — astronomer Tyler Nordgren of the University of Redlands says this will be one of the most photographed events in human history.  

We’ve put together a few tips for taking eclipse photos with your camera and your smartphone. Take a look through them below.

And remember: Stay safe while watching and photographing the eclipse. A few resources for keeping your eyes healthy during the event are included below.

1. Protect your gear

The sun doesn’t just harm your eyes. Camera sensors can be damaged if pointed toward the sun; a neutral-density filter will not. Point and shoot cameras are the most likely to be damaged by the eclipse without a shutter mirror protecting the camera’s sensor.

Even with solar glasses, your eyes can also be in danger if you look through a viewfinder of a long lens mounted to a more professional camera. Any light traveling through that lens will be focused to a point, similar to a magnifying glass focusing sunlight on a piece of paper. The same goes for telescopes and binoculars. 

If you plan on taking a closer look, use a special solar filter. If you don’t already own one, it might be difficult to order online at this point, as many are backordered. However, you can purchase the film used to create the filters and make one yourself. AstroSolar sells film that comes with instructions on making your own filter. A list of dealers can be found at the American Astronomical Society’s website.

It isn’t clear if smartphones could be effected. Even NASA isn’t quite sure, citing the small size of the lenses, the built in UV filter in most and the automatic exposure modes protecting your phone. However, a solar filter is still recommended. You can find more tips on taking eclipse pictures with your camera phone below.


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6 tips for photographing the solar eclipse with cameras, smartphones

 2. A telephoto lens is a must 

If you’re serious about photographing the eclipse, avoid the digital zoom and use a long lens. Lens attachments can be found online for smartphones, as well as adaptors to attach lenses normally for digital SLR cameras. 

3. Keep it steady

The moon is, on average, 238,855 miles away from the earth. Even pressing the shutter button can cause a camera shake and blur your photo.

Bring a tripod. Another good investment for digital SLRs is a remote shutter release. These are available online and at stores that sell camera gear.

4. Control your expectations.

Most of those amazing shots you see online are composite images, meaning multiple photos taken at different exposure levels were combined. You can try it with your DSLR by bracketing, depending on your lens and camera.

You can check out the handy chart here for more details on settings.

5. Using a smartphone? Adjust your settings.

If you’re not a serious photographer but want some shots to share on social media, a smartphone just might do the trick. However, you’ll need to adjust your phone’s camera settings.

The Telegraph shared a few tips for what to do with your settings on the big day, which are summarized below.

  • Turn off your flash and autofocus
  • Reduce exposure: There are options on Androids and iPhones to bring the exposure down, limiting the amount of light that reaches your camera’s lens. Since you’ll be photographing the sun, this is a bit of necessity.
  • Attach a filter: If you’ll be pointing your camera at the eclipse for an extended period of time, you’ll need a filter — otherwise your camera could get damaged, just like your eyes. The Telegraph says an easy option is to hold a pair of eclipse glasses across your smartphone’s lens.
  • Use a tripod: Ones that work with your phone are available online, at Best Buy, at Walmart and at other locations that specialize in electronics. 

6. DO NOT forget to wear your eclipse glasses

Here’s your obligatory safety tip of the day: Don’t sacrifice your eyeballs to get the perfect shot of America’s eclipse. Keep your eclipse glasses on as you shoot — otherwise, you could seriously damage your eyes.

Wondering what staring at the eclipse actually does to your eyes? Here’s what ophthalmologists say. 

We’ve also got some handy information about where to buy eclipse glasses locally and how to tell if the ones you already bought are the real deal, as opposed to fakes that are circulating ahead of the big event. 

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