Human World

A solar eclipse: Top 5 tips for photographers

Solar eclipse: Image of people watching a solar eclipse.
People watch a partial solar eclipse in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on March 20, 2015. Image via NASA/ Robin Cordiner.

Via Mara Johnson-Groh, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

The total solar eclipse crossing America on April 8, 2024, will be the last visible total solar eclipse visible to cross the contiguous U.S. until the year 2045. This astronomical event is a unique opportunity for scientists studying the shadow of the moon, but it’s also a perfect opportunity to capture unforgettable images. Whether you’re an amateur photographer or a selfie master, try out these tips for photographing the eclipse.

Total solar eclipse: April 8, 2024: All you need to know

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1. Safety first

To take images as the sun is being eclipsed, you’ll need to use a special solar filter to protect your camera, just as you’ll need a pair of eclipse glasses to protect your own eyes. However, at totality, when the moon completely blocks the sun, make sure to remove the filter so you can see the sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona.

How to watch a solar eclipse safely

Having a few other pieces of equipment can also come in handy during the eclipse. Using a tripod can help you stabilize the camera and avoid taking blurry images during the low lighting. Additionally, using a delayed shutter release timer will allow you to snap shots without jiggling the camera.

2. Any camera is a good camera

Taking a stunning photo has more to do with the photographer than the camera. Whether you have a high-end DLSR, or a camera phone, you can take great photos during the eclipse; after all, the best piece of equipment you can have is a good eye and a vision for the image you want to create.

If you don’t have a telephoto zoom lens, focus on taking landscape shots, which capture the changing environment.

During totality, when the moon completely covers the sun, if you do have a telephoto lens with a solar filter, you’ll be able to see and photograph the structures in the sun’s corona.

Total eclipsed sun with corona and four boxes around it comparing different focal lengths.
View larger. | Shaun Tarpley from Shawnee National Forest, Illinois, wrote: “I created this using a 9-image bracket series I took during the 2017 total solar eclipse and overlaid frames indicating the relative field-of-view of common focal lengths to help photographers planning to photograph the 2024 eclipse to visualize what focal length is optimum for their imaging goals. It is a quick way to visualize the differences.” Thank you, Shaun!

Learn more about the eclipse, including the state-by-state path of totality, in our YouTube series

3. Look up, down, all around

While the sun is the most commanding element of an eclipse, remember to look around you. As the moon slips in front of the sun, the landscape will be bathed in long shadows, creating eerie lighting across the landscape. Light filtering through the overlapping leaves of trees, creating natural pinholes, which will also create mini eclipse replicas on the ground. Everywhere you can point your camera can yield exceptional imagery, so be sure to compose some wide-angle photos that can capture your eclipse experience.

NASA photographer Bill Ingalls recommends focusing on the human experience of watching the eclipse. He said:

The real pictures are going to be of the people around you pointing, gawking and watching it. Those are going to be some great moments to capture to show the emotion of the whole thing.

4. Practice and plan

Be sure you know the capabilities of your camera before eclipse day. Most cameras, and even many camera phones, have adjustable exposures, which can help you darken or lighten your image during the tricky eclipse lighting. Make sure you know how to manually focus the camera for crisp shots.

For DSLR cameras, the best way to determine the correct exposure is to test settings on the uneclipsed sun beforehand using a solar filter. Using a fixed aperture of f/8 to f/16, try shutter speeds between 1/1000 to 1/4 second to find the optimal setting, which you can then use to take images during the partial stages of the eclipse. During totality, the corona has a wide range of brightness so it’s best to use a fixed aperture and a range of exposures from approximately 1/1000 to 1 second without the solar filter. Then, put your solar filter back once totality has ended.

5. Share!

Share your eclipse experience with friends and family afterwards. Use the hashtag #Eclipse2024 on your favorite social media sites.

Share your pics with us at EarthSky here and see more images at our social media: Facebook, Instagram, X, or Threads.

While you’re out perfecting your perfect eclipse shot, don’t forget to stop and look at the eclipse with your own eyes. Just remember to wear your eclipse glasses for all stages of the eclipse before and after totality!

Bottom line: Five tips for photographing the April 8, 2024, total solar eclipse.

Read more: Eclipse photos here! Annular solar eclipse October 14, 2023

More solar eclipse photos

March 28, 2024
Human World

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