Aug 21st, 2017

As you’ve undoubtedly heard, today is the big solar eclipse. While some people will tell you solar eclipses are not rare, the last total solar eclipse that was visible from North America was 38 years ago. It’s a pretty big deal. You can see when the eclipse will peak in your area by entering your ZIP code at this website.

Looking directly at the sun is always bad, but there’s usually nothing exciting to draw your eye. The eclipse will make it very tempting to look at the sun. Don’t do it. You can permanently damage your eyes. The best way to view the eclipse is with special glasses or a pinhole viewer. But what about taking a photo of the eclipse with your phone?

Is it safe?

Every 4th of July there are thousands of photos of fireworks uploaded to Instagram. People are going to do the same thing with the eclipse. However, the sun can potentially damage your camera. There are a few tips you should know before taking a selfie with the sun.

Smartphone cameras have very small lenses that don’t let in enough light to do major damage. Most cameras also come with UV filters that block some of the visible light from hitting the sensor. Smartphones generally have very short exposure times as well.

However, some of the more recent smartphones have larger and faster lenses. Any phone with a f/1.7 to f/2.0 lens is more likely to be damaged. This includes the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, and others. Chances are it will be fine if you just take a quick photo or a selfie, but you should know there is a chance the eclipse could ruin your camera.

Taking a Photo With Your Smartphone

Here are some important tips to consider if you’re going to take a photo of the eclipse with your smartphone.

  • Don’t hold your phone directly up to the sun. Your phone won’t block the sun enough and you could damage your eyes. Instead, hold the phone at an angle so you can see the screen without looking toward the sun. Taking a selfie or using your front camera is a good idea because your back will be to the sun.
  • Don’t use auto-focus to take the photo. Your camera will have a hard time focusing on the moon. Tap the moon to focus or use your camera’s focus slider.
  • Adjust the exposure until you see details on the moon. You can usually adjust the exposure by tapping the screen and sliding your finger up and down. If not, check the pro mode tools.
  • Digitial zoom will result in a blurry, pixelated view of the eclipse. This is a perfect time to use a zoom lens attachment for your phone. You will want something around 12x to 18x to get the best shot. A pair of binoculars may also work.
  • Use a tripod to take the photo. It’s hard to keep the camera steady when you’re zoomed in very far. Just make sure to protect the lens until it’s time to snap the photo. Consider using a timer on the camera so it has time to stop vibrating after you touch the button.

TL;DR: Be aware that you could do damage to your camera. Don’t point your phone at the eclipse for too long. Use a zoom lens attachment and a tripod. Adjust the exposure and don’t use autofocus.

Check out this guide from NASA if you want more information about photographing the eclipse. How are you going to watch the eclipse? How much of the sun will be covered in your area?

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