How To Photograph A Solar Eclipse

Most of you have already heard that on August 21, 2017, the Great American Eclipse will be visible across much of the country when the moon completely obscures the sun. If you’re one of the lucky ones in the total eclipse’s path, here is some great tips from Consumer Reports that explains what you need to know in order to photograph the event.

 Photo credit: National Geographic

Photo credit: National Geographic

Plan Ahead

If you live outside the 70-mile-wide path where you will be able to see the total eclipse that angles across the country from Salem, Oregon, to Charleston, South Carolina, you'll need to plan a roadtrip to catch the total eclipse or simply settle for simply seeing a partial one. If you are not sure, check out this NASA map to help show where the eclipse can be seen

Be sure you think ahead of time about the ideal backdrop for your photo, because you won't have much time for location scouting on the day of the event. At best, the total eclipse will last 2 minutes and 40 seconds, depending on your location. Try finding a spot flanked by a mountain range, a lake, a stand of trees, or even a great old barn—anything that will add context and character to the snapshot.

Be Prepared To Not Look Directly At The Sun

It is dangerous to look directly at the sun, so in order to view the solar eclipse safely, you'll need special tinted glasses. If you still do not have your safety glasses, you can get your own on Amazon here. According to NASA, they should be certified to meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard and include the manufacturer's name and address somewhere on the product.

You also need a special solar filter designed to block infrared and UV radiation to safeguard your camera. According to the article on Consumer Reports, "The intense magnification through a lens creates a concentration of heat and energy similar to burning a leaf with a magnifying glass," says pro photographer Ken Sklute, who co-authors Canon's eclipse blog. "So choosing to photograph without a solar filter can harm your image stabilization and aperture mechanism, damage the sensor and shutter, and cause permanent eye damage.”

Even with a filter on the lens, be sure that you do not view the solar eclipse through a camera's viewfinder... use the device's LCD screen to compose the shot instead.

The Consumer Reports article also states that the one time when it's okay to remove the solar glasses and the solar filter is during totality, when the moon completely blocks the sunlight. Before attempting to do that, though, make sure you know and understand the stages that lead up to that phase, said Artur Pietruch, who handles the digital camera testing in the Consumer Reports labs.

 Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

Photo credit: Los Angeles Times

Use The Right Equipment

It is best to use a an interchangeable lens camera, something like the Canon EOS Rebel T5i or the more advanced Nikon D7200 just to name a few. You also want to make sure you have a tripod with you so you can be sure to not have any camera movement while snapping your shots. Remember that you are not going to have a second change so you want the shots you take to be the best you possibly can. 

Find The Right Exposure Settings

Since the eclipse happens so fast, be sure to take some time beforehand to experiment with exposure settings so you can capture the perfect shot. 

Photojournalist Babak Tafreshi says, "Since there is not a bright light source for a digital camera to focus on, you can't use auto focus so you should turn on the manual focus instead, and set it to infinity. Now turn off the camera's flash. It won't help you."

As the sky darkens, be sure to test various exposure combinations to find the right balance between aperture and shutter speed so you save yourself from a frantic guessing your settings during the actual eclipse. For a solar eclipse, a setting between f/8 and f/16 is ideal, depending on the shutter speed you've selected.

If you take photos of the eclipse, be sure to show us your great work! If you have one that stands out from the rest, submit it to us so it can be considered as one of our photos of the week. You can read more about the submissions guidelines in this post here.  


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