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Solar Eclipse 2024: Here’s how to use your cellphone to capture images of the event

Here are some tips to photograph the upcoming solar eclipse.

With a solar eclipse just days away, aren’t we all wondering the best way to get a good selfie with the cosmic bodies?

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Of course you are, but if you are aiming to post a photo of the event, you had better take precautions.

On Monday, 15 U.S. states will experience “totality” when a solar eclipse turns day into darkness as the moon moves between the Earth and the sun. If you are within the 115-mile-wide path of totality, you are lucky because you will get to see the entire show – weather permitting.

You’ll see a partial phase, totality – lasting up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds – and then another partial phase before it’s over.

Even if you are not in the area of totality, you will see some effects of the eclipse.

So, if you want to get photos of some of that, here’s what you need to do.

Can I use my smartphone?

Yes, you can.

‘Smartphones are going to be the way most people capture this eclipse and that’s fine—they will work very well,’ Alan Dyer, solar eclipse photographer and author of “How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse,” Space.com. ‘Even if you just hold it up and shoot on auto exposure, you’ll probably get a good shot.’

Dyer suggests:

  • Turn off the flash: If you’re inside the path of totality, disable the flash before totality, Dyer said. Using flash won’t help your photography.
  • Don’t zoom in: It’s the sun – you’re not going to get a closeup, but you will mess up your resolution and make it look grainy.

Others suggest you manually set the focus of your phone’s camera by tapping on the moon on your screen.

Manually set the exposure too. On an iPhone, after you tap to set the focus, a small sun icon will appear to the right of the focus box. Dragging this up and down will adjust the exposure.

On an Android phone, press the desired focus point for an extra moment and you can drag it left and right to adjust the focus.

Use burst mode: To capture the “diamond ring” effect of the eclipse, use burst mode on your iPhone. Right before the eclipse reaches totality and just after totality is ending, you’ll see a bead of sunlight. The bead combines with the thin ring around the rest of the moon to look like a diamond ring.

You have to be quick, the image lasts only seconds, but if you can use the burst mode and catch it, it should be a nice shot.

Burst mode is an iPhone camera setting that lets you take ten photos per second.

  • To use the burst function, open the built-in iPhone Camera app.
  • If you have iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, or iPhone 12, slide the shutter button to the left.
  • The camera will keep taking photos until you release the shutter button.
  • If you have an iPhone X or older model, hold down the shutter button to shoot in burst mode (you don’t need to drag the button).

Some suggestions from NASA

NASA suggests that you:

  • Practice photographing the full moon to get an idea of how large the sun-in-eclipse will appear with your smartphone’s lens, or with a telephoto lens attachment. Moon photography is a challenge because the camera will try to automatically adjust the exposure but most of the view will be the dark sky, so the moon’s disk will be overexposed and show no details.
  • Digital zoom will not work to create a magnified, clear image. Instead, go buy a $20-$40 zoom lens attachment that will give you 12x to 18x the view.
  • Rather than trying to photograph the eclipse itself, concentrate on what people around you are doing, but perhaps with the eclipsing sun in the field of view too.
  • Consider using the delay timer set at 5 seconds so that once you press the exposure button, the camera waits 5 seconds before taking the shot. That gives your camera/tripod/clamp system plenty of time to settle down and produce vibration-free images.
  • Without a telephoto attachment to your smartphone, the image of the lunar/eclipse disk will be heavily pixilated, and the corona will look equally rough. This is the normal camera view of a standard smartphone, but if you zoom out for a wide-angle view, you will be able to see the bright corona surrounding a black spot in the sky.
  • When manually focusing your smartphone on the enlarged moon. make sure that you center the focus spot on the edge of the moon, which will be a sharp edge for the camera to auto-focus on. Also, adjust the light sensor spot manually so that it is reading the corona. You may need to move the metering spot around to get the best contrast and image definition.
  • Make sure that for telephoto imagery you use a tripod because the vibration of your hands will be enough to smear the image and make it very difficult to focus on it.

Warning

When viewing the eclipse, you must wear protective solar eclipse glasses to avoid eye damage from the sun’s light. You can also hold or tape the lens from a spare pair over your smartphone camera to prevent the light from damaging that lens, and to stop your shots from being overexposed.

For more tips

If you want some more tips on shooting the solar eclipse, click here for more tips from Alan Dyer.


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