- Getty Images
- You can safely take a photo of the eclipse with your iPhone or another smartphone. But if you have any sort of zoom lens on your camera, you need a special protective filter. Don’t forget to protect your eyes from the sun.
Darkness is coming.
Or at least partial darkness, depending on where you live.
On Monday, people across the US will have the chance to see a total or partial eclipse. Only those in a 70-mile band will see the moon fully block out the sun, but most of us will at least see some of what was once thought of as a celestial dragon devouring the sun.
There are ways you can photograph the “Great American Eclipse” without damaging your camera or phone (or eyes), but if you do it wrong, you could permanently damage your devices.
Looking at the sun with your naked eye can burn your retinas, even if that star we orbit is almost entirely covered by the moon. That’s why you need to wear protective glasses or use some other method to view the eclipse safely. And most camera sensors can be damaged if you point them directly at the sun, especially if it has a powerful lens.
Here’s what you need to know to take a safe and high-quality shot.
- Getty Images
If you are staring at the eclipse with your naked eye, trying to line up the perfect shot, you could damage your vision.
There’s some debate about whether a quick shot of the eclipse could do any harm to your phone’s sensor, though NASA concludes it’s probably fine.
If you’re using an iPhone, you should be OK. According to Apple, it’s OK to take a photo without a solar filter on the lens, since there’s not enough magnification to let in the amount of light that would harm your lens or sensor. (It should be essentially the same for other smartphones with comparable cameras.) It’s a wide-angle shot, and the sun or moon will fit in only a small part of that image.
That’s a great way to take a photo of you and your friends with the eclipse in the background. If you are going to try it, adjust your camera so it’s not letting in too much light and blowing out your image. You could also put your phone on a tripod and record the scene. (NASA has posted some handy tips.)
But you won’t be able to capture a full, massive eclipse image like those in this article with a phone’s wide-angle lens. Try taking a photo of the moon with your phone – that’s what you’ll be able to see during the eclipse. If you want to capture more of a shot, you’ll need a telephoto attachment or zoom lens for your camera. The magnification effect will mean you also need a filter to protect your camera’s sensor from being burned by the sun.
DSLR and zoom-lens users
If you’re taking a photo with a more traditional camera that has any sort of real zoom – even a point-and-shoot but especially a DSLR – you’ll need a solar filter to protect your camera’s sensor from damage.
These can be obtained from your local photography store – it may be too late to find one on Amazon or other online retailers, though you can always check. A filter sheet or No. 14 welder’s glass in front of your camera can do the trick as well.
Remember to practice with your gear. You’re going to have only a couple of minutes to shoot, so you don’t want to be fiddling with settings. To capture the sun in the frame, you’re going to need a zoom lens that’s at least 300 mm, and you’ll most likely want an even more powerful zoom, between 500 mm and 1000 mm. Your flash is useless, so keep that turned off.
Settings vary slightly depending on which moment of the eclipse you are trying to capture, but most experts recommend a low ISO (100, or maybe 200) and a fairly wide aperture. Different shutter speeds should help you capture different moments – for more details, check the guides linked above.
If you’re shooting within the totality band, don’t forget to take the solar filter off your lens when the sun is fully covered. At that point, you’ll be shooting in dark conditions and will need a tripod to take stable shots. Using a remote trigger for your shutter or a delay will also help you avoid camera shake. Make sure to replace the filter when you start to see beads of light appearing again.
Beyond that, have fun! And please feel free to share any eclipse shots you take with us (if you are OK with us republishing them) by emailing them to email@example.com.