Who’s ready for their obligatory solar eclipse Insta photo!?
Mark your calendars because on Monday, August 21, 2017, we’ve got ourselves a solar eclipse. This is the first total eclipse of the Sun visible from the contiguous United States (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) since February 26, 1979. Everyone in North America plus parts of South America, Africa, and Europe will be able to enjoy at least a partial solar eclipse.
Here are 5 tips to taking killer photos while keeping your eyes safe.
1. Don’t Look directly at the Sun
Don’t worry, you won’t break your very expensive smartphone by pointing it at the sun. Smartphone lenses are very small (2 millimeters) and don’t suck in enough light to break the mechanics. You will, however, damage your eyes if you look directly at the sun. So make sure to wear your specially designed solar eclipse glasses.
2. Avoid sensor blooming
Sensor blooming occurs in photography when the light streaks out from the light source and creates a supernova like effect that that can cover a large portion of your picture. Sensor blooming and lens flair can add a cool look to your photos but it will ruin a photo of the eclipse. Using a filter will stop this from happening. If you happen to have bought a pair of eclipse glasses before they sold out, you’re in luck. Cover your smartphone lens with a solar filter, or ISO-Certified sun-viewing glasses, during the moments before (and after) totality when the sunlight is still blinding. This will eliminate sun blooming and give you a clear image of the solar disk. When totality starts (the moon completely covers the sun), take the filter off and shoot normally with the smartphone.
3. Adjusting the exposure
With such a great contrast between the blazing sun and the dark moon, exposing your photo correctly can be challenging. Your phone might try to automatically adjust the exposure to lighten the dark sky leaving the moon’s disk overexposed and showing no details. Most smartphones let you adjust with your finger where the focus and metering spots will be in the field. Focusing and correctly exposing your image is as simple as tapping the screen and holding your finger on the eclipse to lock the focus. Then slide your finger up or down to darken or lighten the exposure.
4. Photograph the experience
During the eclipse, take some snaps of your surroundings. The eclipse will simulate a sort of sunrise and sunset (golden hour) lighting all in around 2.5 minutes. This will require low light level ‘twilight’ photography on your smartphone. Some phones, like the Samsung Galaxy S8, have a professional camera mode allowing you to manually adjust ISO, shutter speed, and aperture–all useful features for low light photography.
5. Capture the lunar shadow
One effect that you might try to record if you have an unbroken view of the northwestern horizon is the rapid approach of the lunar shadow before it passes over your location at totality. You need to be in a field somewhere with a view of the ground out to the horizon like on a hill or even a mountain facing west. In the distance you will see the ground darken and then in literally a few seconds the sky near you will turn to twilight as totality begins. You will not need a camera filter to see this effect. Then you can look up and see the sun in full eclipse.
If you take enough photos, the chances are you will have at least one awesome one for your Insta account and a great memory of the day. But don’t get disheartened if they’re not as cool as you expected, smartphones were never designed to do sun and moon photography. Instead, just relax and enjoy watching the day turn to night. After-all, if you miss it because you’re looking into a phone, you might have to wait another 20 years to see it in person again:)