How to take a great photograph of the eclipse

Don't Waste Your Money
Posted at 11:31 AM, Aug 18, 2017
and last updated 2017-08-21 14:59:37-04

Whether or not you have found official eclipse glasses, many of us would like to get some pictures of the solar eclipse Monday. 

But before you damage your phone or end up with a blurry white blob, a professional photographer shared some advice on how to shoot the sun and what you should avoid. 

Photographer shares her secrets

Emily Maxwell is an award winning photographer who shoots many of the photos you see on

She swears by digital SLR (DSLR) cameras, where your eye sees the exact image in the lens, not an electronically converted image of what the shot might look like.

Maxwell is traveling to Tennessee Monday to take photos of the full eclipse. 

"This is a Canon 6D. Its a full frame SLR, and it is what I'm going to be using this weekend," she said.

An SLR will be able to fill the frame with the crescent sun, and you can dial down the brightness (or aperture, as it is offiicially called). However, she has one warning: do not look at the sun through an SLR viewfinder unless you have a darkening filter on the lens. You will be seeing the real sun image, magnified into your eye.

Most of us don't have a pro camera, as they cost $600 or more, but Maxwell says any camera with a physical zoom lens should be better than a cell phone.

"With your phone, one thing is you are not going to be able to zoom in as closely as you would like to, and that's one thing that's nicer about DSLR's: you can use longer lenses." 

Only a zoom lens, she says, will let you truly fill the frame with the eclipse, as opposed to having a bright little dot in the center of the screen.

Shooting with an iPhone or Android phone

Of course most of us plan to use our smartphone camera to shoot the eclipse. But that can cause problems if you simply point your camera up at the sun, experts say.

Dean Regas, Director of the Cincinnati Observatory, astronomer, and photographer, says a quick phone photo should be OK, but don't shoot a 3 minute video into the sun with your phone (ditto for a 5 minute Facebook Live broadcast to your friends)

"If you have your camera phone pointed at the sun,  for long periods of time, it could damage the electronics inside of it," he said. "It probably won't, but you don't want to do it for long periods of time, just to be safe."

With any camera, Regas suggests placing a darkening filter over the lens.

Don't have any filters? Even sunglasses over a phone lens can help.

Great iPhone tip

Meantime, if you have an iPhone, Maxwell suggests turning down the amount of light that gets in, by adjusting the little sun next to the yellow focus box (many people don't realize that the little yellow sun lets you manually adjust your iPhone shots for brightness).

But most important, she says, is to practice before the eclipse.

"A good thing to do is to practice on a non eclipse day, like on Sunday," she explained. "That way you can see what range works best for your gear."

Finally, she says, your best shots may not be the sun, but the crowd around you. "I think people's reactions are going to be really priceless," she said

Bottom line: Maxwell says that if you simply point your phone at the sun and click, you'll most likely get a blurry, small bright white blob.

So take some time to practice your shots, so you don't damage anything and you don't waste your money.


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