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Are you planning on photographing the great North American total solar eclipse, in August? Here are some frequently asked questions about taking photos of this remarkable event. If you have more questions, please feel free to drop them in the Comments section at the end of the article!
A: To aim your camera, you will need to look toward or at the sun. You will not want to do this with your naked eye, even with sunglasses. Solar viewing glasses are the only safe way to protect your eyes when looking at the sun. Also, you likely will not be looking through your camera the entire time, so have the glasses handy when you take a break from photographing.
A: No. Your camera and lens will magnify the light and energy of the sun to a point greater than what the solar viewing glasses are designed to protect you from. They are made to view the sun without magnification.
A: Any camera, if it is properly protected from harsh solar light, can be used to photograph the sun. However, lenses with longer focal lengths will allow you to fill the frame more effectively with the sun.
A: That depends on how much of the frame you want the sun to fill. A 2000mm lens will allow the sun to fill the frame but, during the period of totality of a total solar eclipse, the corona of the sun will extend well past the edge of the frame. See the graphic, below, for a guide to the different coverage of telephoto focal lengths.
A: We do not recommend using an ND filter for solar photography. Some folks have done it successfully, but only a certified solar observing filter is designed for not only the harsh light of the sun, but the different wavelengths of harmful radiation, as well. Experts at NASA, the National Science Foundation, the American Astronomical Society, Nikon, Space.com, Sky & Telescope magazine all recommend solar filters over ND filters. And, solar filters tend to be reasonably priced, so why take risk your eyes or equipment?
A: The sun is super bright, so when photographing it, even with a solar filter, you might be using fast shutter speeds. However, once the total eclipse happens, everything will get very dark and you’ll need the stability of the tripod for the slower shutter speeds. Also, the eclipse happens over several hours, so the tripod will keep you from having to hold your gear continuously.
A: Yes, you can use a smartphone camera to photograph the eclipse. Just be aware that you should still filter the lens using a solar filter and that the sun will be very small in the frame. Also, mobile cameras are not always very good at low-light images, so during the total eclipse, your images may leave you wanting something better.
A: You can use any type of camera to photograph a projection of the eclipse. No filter is needed.
What solar eclipse photography questions do you have? Fire them off in the Comments section, below, and we can continue the discussion!