Outdoors / Tips and Solutions

14 Tips for Solar Viewing and Photography Safety

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When viewing or photographing the sun, or any phase of a partial solar eclipse, remember that you MUST observe safe practices to prevent damage to your eyes and/or equipment (but mostly to your eyes).

  1. NEVER look directly at the sun with your naked eyes. Permanent damage to your eyesight, up to and including blindness, may result.
  2. Eye protection is NOT required during periods of Totality during a total solar eclipse when the viewer is in the path of Totality. Totality is bookmarked by the “diamond ring effect.”
  3. ONLY use solar viewing glasses sold by a reputable dealer (like B&H) and ensure that they meet current ISO 12312-2 standards.
  4. INSPECT all solar viewing gear and filters for damage and tiny holes. If damaged, DO NOT use.
  5. DO NOT point a camera at the sun unless the optics are fitted with a PROPER solar filter.
  6. DO NOT look through the optical viewfinder of an unfiltered SLR camera when it is pointed at or near the sun.
  7. DO NOT look through the viewfinder of a rangefinder camera when it is pointed at or near the sun.
  8. DO NOT point any camera directly at the sun (including DSLRs and point-and-shoot style).
  9. DO NOT use your camera’s optical viewfinder if you are using an ND-type “solar” filter. Use Live View or an electronic viewfinder (EVF) only. We recommend a metal or Mylar-type certified solar filter for photography. DO NOT use an ND-type filter as eye protection for direct solar viewing.
  10. DO NOT use drop-in lens filters for solar protection.
  11. DO NOT use solar viewing glasses as an optical filter for cameras or other optical devices such as spotting scopes or binoculars.
  12. DO NOT place solar filters between your camera and lens. Solar filters (except for specialized intermediate scientific filters) go in front of your lens.
  13. PROTECT your skin with sunblock, clothing, and headgear.
  14. BE SAFE and ENJOY the show!

For more ideas for solar viewing safety gear, visit our Solar Eclipse 2017 landing page.

Discussion 22

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Thanks!  I went with a pinhole camera! My eyes are my job!!

I have a Canon 100-400 mm lens I'm using today with a solar filter from Star Guy...is it safe to use my viewfinder or do I still need to use live view?  Also...do I still need to wear my glasses while looking through my viewfinder or my live screen?  Same question concerning our solar binoculars... do we leave our glasses on? 

Is it safe to view as a reflection, say in an ND filter or even sunglasses?

Hey Bradford,

I have heard some say this is safe, but my mother always told me that sunlight reflecting off of the water (or snow) causes sunburns to get worse. Old wives tale? Urban legend?

I honestly do not know, but I wouldn't recommend it. Another reader sent an email about this to NASA, but I do not think she has gotten a reply yet.

Be safe!

Todd and Bradford,

Let me share my personal experience with sun damage to my eyes. It will justify the old wives tale about sun reflecting from water. In my younger days, I spent many years lifeguarding and coaching swimming in outdoor pools during the summer . This was befoe the days of sunglasses with UV protection.  The years of reflective sunlight took their toll on my eyes. I have had three surgical proceedures to remove growths and damage caused by the sun.  Although I am not a docotor or a NASA emplyee, my personal experience would leada me to  advice not watching the eclipse in the reflection of a pool.

As a school teacher, during a previous partial eclipse,  I had my students make a pin hole box to view the eclipse. It work really well! We were able to see the shadow what was happening above us.  You might want to give that a try. 

Hope you find a safe way to view the eclipse.

THANK YOU, Marie!

Why can't you use solar viewing glasses (1 of the two sides) that will comletely cover a uv filter attached to the camera lens?

Hey Dick,

Solar viewing glasses are designed to view the sun at 1x magnification. A camera lens, if it is telephoto, will magnify the image and negate the protective rating of the glasses.

If you are tempted to try this, do NOT use an optical viewfinder on your camera. You could cause severe damage to your eyesight.

Thanks for the question!

During past eclipse events I've used a #12 welding shield to view and photograph the sun.  I don't know for certain, but I'd assume that the welding shield is darker than the thin eclipse glasses being sold today.  Any insight?

Hey Mitch,

Astronomy groups and others recommend #14 welding glass as a minimum.

Stay safe!

NASA and the American Astronomical Society have deemed the #12 to be the minimum requirement for observiing the eclipse of the sun

When I was a kid we used to use film negatives to observe the solar eclipse. We would double or triple them on to of each other until viewing was comfortabe. I'm sure most people today don't even know what a film negative is anymore.

Hey Robert,

I cannot recommend that method for viewing.

The current ISO standard for solar viewing is more stringent than the standards set in the past, so even solar glasses from the 1970s should not be used.

Stay safe and be sure to use certified gear!

 You say not to use solar eclipse glasses on binoculars, but can you use binoculars while wearing solar eclipse glasses?

I KNOW in telescopes that you will shatter lenses and destroy the mirrors because the sun is essentially being focused on the optics (think about the old days when we used magnifying glasses to burn ants).  That energy is too hot for the internal optics.  You can buy filters that go in the front of your telescope and binoculars so you can use them to observe the sun.

You are correct, Rich! Thank you!

Hi Alexis,

NO! Please do not put solar viewing glasses behind magnifying optics like telescopes, cameras, or binoculars. They do not have the strength to protect you when the image is magnified.

The glasses are for direct solar viewing only.

Be safe!

Can you hold an X-ray (the dark portion where the image doesn't show up) even double or triple it if needed, in front of your lens to protect your sensor when pointing it directly at the sun?

Ty,

I am sure you can hold an X-ray up to the sun, but I have absolutely no idea if it will block any light or radiation. I have no idea what type of material X-ray film is made out of.

I would NOT recommend holding up X-ray film in front of the sun and viewing with your eyes, camera, or anything else.

Thanks for asking before you tried it!

What if your camera is on a phone, and you ate looking at the LED screen?

Hey H,

You are safe to look at the eclipse on an LCD screen, television, or other electronic device. 

Thanks for asking!

You will probabbly destroy your camera sensor though.

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