Solar Eclipse Photography FAQ

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Solar Eclipse Photography FAQ

Are you planning to photograph an amazing solar eclipse? Here are some frequently asked questions about taking photos of one of nature's most incredible events. If you have more questions, please feel free to drop them in the Comments section at the end of the article!

Q: Why do I need solar viewing glasses if I am just going to be photographing the eclipse?

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.

Also, please don't look at the eclipse, even through a camera—use your own (protected) eyes! It is way better than looking through a camera!

Solar viewing glasses
Solar viewing glasses

Q: May I look through my optical viewfinder at the sun while wearing solar viewing glasses?

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. Solar glasses are made to view the sun without magnification.

Cooler solar viewing glasses
Cooler solar viewing glasses

Q: What kind of camera do I need to photograph the solar eclipse?

A: Any camera—film, digital, mirrorless, SLR, DSLR, camera obscura—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.

Q: What size telephoto lens is best for photographing a solar eclipse?

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.

An illustration of what the eclipse would look like with different focal length lenses on a full-frame digital camera.
An illustration of what the eclipse would look like with different focal length lenses on a full-frame digital camera.

Q: What kind of filter will protect my camera?

A: You should use a certified solar photography filter to protect your camera and lens. There are two basic types of filters—those that screw on your lens like a traditional photographic filter and those that slip over the entire front of the optic. If you want a screw-on type that doesn't exactly fit your lens, you can adapt those filters with step-up rings.

Step-up rings allow you to put larger filters on smaller lenses.
Step-up rings allow you to put larger filters on smaller lenses.

Q: May I use a neutral density filter, or stack a bunch of ND filters on my lens?

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?

There are some ND filters out there marketed for solar photography. If you are looking for this type of filter, it looks like the consensus among brands is that 16-stops is the minimum strength for a filter. In comparing different brands, there was a dramatic difference between the light transmission of one brand's 16.5-stop filter and a competing brand. This concerns me a bit. Use at your own risk!

WARNING: Do NOT use these ND filters on a camera with an optical viewfinder! Many ND filters come with fine-print on their packaging regarding optical viewfinders, so use due diligence and use Live View mode or an electronic viewfinder. Your safest option is a solar filter, but the optical glass ND filter may have other uses besides solar photography.

Dedicated solar filter for photography
Dedicated solar filter for photography

Q: The sun is so bright; why do I need a tripod to photograph the eclipse?

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.

Q: May I just use my iPhone or mobile device to get a photo of the eclipse?

A: Yes, you can use a smartphone camera to photograph the eclipse. You may want to filter the lens using a solar filter because you will not see anything but a bright sun until totality. Also know that the sun will be very small in the frame. Mobile cameras are not always very good at low-light images, so during the total eclipse, your images may leave you wanting something better.

Q: If I am doing a projection of the eclipse, what kind of camera should I use to photograph the projection?

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!

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I had two critical issues when videoing the last eclipse, and I have not found a good solution.  One -- While zoomed in on the eclipse, I had to manually track the sun as it moved to the edge of my viewfinder.  This ruined the look of the video since I had to pan and stop ... pan and stop ... pan and stop.  Two -- During totality, everything went black and I had to remove the solar filter, and then replace it when the sun reappeared.  This involved gripping the filter and camera to remove it, thus more jerky-looking video.  How can I make tracking the sun smooth?  Does anyone make an electronic solar filter that can be dialed up and down in density?

In order to smoothly track the sun, you’ll need to use an equatorial star-tracking mount such as a Skywatcher Star Adventurer GTI, HEQ5, or EQ-6R depending upon the weight of your equipment.
There is a learning process involved with learning a motorized equatorial mount, I would advise giving yourself several weeks, at a minimum, to get hands-on experience.

Great advice for a fellow B&H Customer, David. Thank you!

Best,

Todd

Hey Alvin,

David is correct. The Earth is spinning and your camera is spinning with it. Therefore, to keep the sun steady in your field of view, you need a tracking mount.

David is also correct...they require some experience to use them well.

When I photographed the 2017 eclipse, I used an iOptron Sky Guider that is aligned with the north star. The difficulty, as you can imagine, is finding Polaris during the day. It is impossible! Therefore I had to use my phone's electronic compass (calibrated to true, not magnetic north). It worked OK, but I still had to reposition the camera every once in a while.

For your second challenge: I do not know of anyone who has designed a variable, electronic, solar filter. If you are using a screw-on filter...if the threads play nicely, you might be able to get it off without imparting too much motion. Slip-on filters can also be easy to don and doff.

Standing by for more questions!

Best,

Todd

Now that the eclipse has concluded, and I am looking at my photos, I see vertical and horizontal lines on some images that were taken right before the moon completely covered the sun and after I removed the eclipse filter on the lens. The lines occur only the edge of the moon/sun's surface, and nowhere else on the image. Is this a common phenomenon?

 

If I am taking photographs of other people viewing the eclipse and the sun is not in my frame do I need to take any precautions in regard to my camera? I have have solar glasses for my protection.

Hey Kevin,

If you are not shooting the sun directly, no special equipment is needed. Good luck and enjoy the show!

I wanted to try a time lapse of the eclipse using my GoPro Hero 4.  Are there any special precautions that need to be taken for the camera?  I was planning on using a tripod and setting it to take a shot every ten seconds.  I don't remember the source, but I thought I read somewhere that GoPro cameras and smartphones don't need a filter. I want to make sure that is correct before ruining anything.  Thanks for all of your great info on this subject!

No camera, lens or sensor can be used without a filter for photographing the sun. Just don't do it!

Good advice, Curtis...but see my reply to Kathy. Thanks for writing in!

Hey Kathy,

Curtis is right...to a point. We have all seen videos from a GoPro camera where the sun is somewhere in the frame of the shot.

However, if you do not filter the GoPro somehow, the sun, even during partial phases of the eclipse, will simply appear as a bright white section of the image. You will likely not see any of the partial phases as the sun is still incredibly bright right up to the point where it is covered by the moon.

And, if you do filter the sun, everything else will be lost to blackness, so you will just see a tiny filtered sun move across the frame.

There are no really good options with a GoPro, in my opinion.

Good luck!

I am planning on using my Nikon P900 at 1500mm telephoto. I bought my lens filter. Will the moon be visible in the photos BEFORE it is crossing the path between us and the sun?

Robin,

No. During eclipses, the moon is a "new moon" and the side facing Earth is completely in shadow, therefore the new moon is invisible from earth unless it crosses the sun's face.

Thanks for reading!

I practiced with a solar filter and could not get any landscape even at 1 minute exposure and high ISO. what am i missing?  Everyone is talking about

!/ !000. I'm totally confused.

Hi dakota,

Were you photographing the sun and land or just the landscape? Either way, in order to get landscape you need to take a very long exposure. Solar filters are very dark. This kind of tells you how freaking bright the sun is, right? I did a 15-minute exposure in Times Square in the middle of the day, and the image was still dark.

Let me know what your are shooting and I can try to help more. Thanks!

I was trying to shoot landscape and the sun together. I agree and understand what you are saying. What i missing is___ how you can shoot the sun or landscape at setting that are being posed everywhere. Ex: ISO 100, F5.6, 1/1000. That's what I missing. These settings don't even register any image. The 15 minutes you are talking about is more like it but will give bad motion blur

You can shoot landscapes with the sun in the shot, but if you want to get the sun and the landscape today during the eclipse, you're SOL.  The eclipse is happening basically straight up in the air above your head.  So it won't be close to the land unless you're shooting with a 180 degree fisheye.  Also, there's a massive difference in exposure from the sun and the land.  If you want to get the sun closer to a good exposure for the land, the best you can hope for is shooting a sunset, but even then the sun is still basically the chief source to expose for.  Depends entirely on what sort of exposure of the sun you are hoping for.  Any exposure where people are visible basically renders the sun a bright circle.  Best way to do this is photoshop.  Shoot the sun and then photoshop it into a shot of people and landscape.

Thank you Jonathan. I'm off now to get my spot for the event.

I have a Canon Power Shot SX50 HS. It has an incredible zoom, but I don't see threads to insert a filter. What is the "solar Sheet" you are referring to, and where can I get that in time for the eclipse? I realize I am very late to the conversation, but I do have the certified glasses which I purchased on Friday from B&H (only too stupid to think of the solar sheet at the time.

Also, if I can manage to get the solar sheet (how does one affix that?) what settings do I use - especially when I zoom as far as the camera will let me. And final question - camera will be on a tripod, but am I better off looking through the view finder or the view screen moved out to the side?

Thanks,

Linda

Hey Linda,

Yes, your camera does not have filter threads, so you need a solar filter sheet or a universal filter. Unfortunately, B&H has been sold out of these items for weeks.

If you do get a solar sheet before tomorrow, you simply wrap it around the front of your lens and secure it using a rubber band or strap.

Electronic viewfinder or screen. Either one works. You might have more luck with the viewfinder because the camera will be pointed at the sun and it's very bright.

#14 welding glass from your local hardware store works as well.

If you do not get a filter, do NOT take photographs of the partially eclipsed or bare sun!

Good luck!

Hi - I purchased the Formatt Hitech 5.4 ND solar eclipse filter (from BH), now wondering if I got the wrong filter? Am I safe Using with D7500 / 70-300mm, articulating screen? Early test shots (ap priority w 5-shot bracketing), aren't turning out so good, and now seeing your warnings about ND filters, worried. I'm in Corvallis, OR.

Hi - I purchased the Formatt Hitech 5.4 ND solar eclipse filter (from BH), now wondering if I got the wrong filter? Am I safe Using with D7500 / 70-300mm, articulating screen? Early test shots (ap priority w 5-shot bracketing), aren't turning out so good, and now seeing your warnings about ND filters, worried. I'm in Corvallis, OR.

Hey Fran,

I have personally photographed the sun with that filter and gotten fine results. Please do NOT use the optical viewfinder on the D7500. Live view only!

Why are your results not good? Be sure you are using spot metering if using an automatic exposure mode, or adjust manual exposure so that only the disc of the sun appears and that disc is not blown out...the only thing in the frame that matters is the disc of the sun, so don't worry if the black of space goes black! Most people who write in with poor results are overexposing the images.

Write back if you get this and I will try to reply (I am on vacation...).

Good luck!

Can the eclipse be photographed up to the point of total eclipse, then after the eclipse without the use of a special filter? I wanted to do a succession of photographs of the event but I don't know if it would be dangerous to photograph any of the solar eclipse without protecting my camera.

You will need a filter up to the point of totality and then after.  Subjecting your camera to an un-filtered sun can destroy the image sensor.

Thanks for the solid advice, Raymond!

Hi Sandy,

NO, you cannot photograph the sun unfitted, even when it is partially eclipsed.

It could be dangerous to both your camera and your eyes if you are looking through it.

Please do not do it.

I'm in Wyoming and the forecast for the state is temperatures from the mid 70's to mid 80's with little wind. I would suggest having sun screen and shade the camera body to prevent it from overheating.

Thanks for the tip, Steve! I'll be in Tennessee with temps in the 90's plus humidity! I think your camera will be happier than mine!

Any thoughts on photographing the eclipse using an IR filter?

Hey david,

I cannot recommend it. But, feel free to search the interweb to see if anyone has done it.

Good luck!

I have a Canon 50D, 400mm Canon lens, with the correct filter, 2X teleconverter and a shutterboss timer. What ISO, shutter speed and timing should I use for a time lapse series of photos to then knit into one print of the stages of eclipse? I am in the direct path of 100% total eclipse.

Hey Sandy,

You will find that the exposure for the partial phases is very similar to what it would be if you photographed the sun today. Speaking of today's sun, get outside and practice! I assume you have a solar filter for your camera. If you have an ND-type filter, please do NOT look through the Canon 50D's viewfinder. You can only look through the viewfinder if you have a filter certified for solar viewing through optics.

As far as exposure during and around totality, please see the exposure table in this article, or look up Mr. Fred Espenak's more detailed tables on the web.

Let me know if you have more questions!

Is it safe to watch the eclipse through a tinted car window if you are wearing Ray Bans too?

Only during totality, Joe Cool...only during totality! :)

If I put my lens hood on bacwards and attach a welders glass to it in front of the lens using rubber bands will that be safe? I could then view the event using live view. I don't know of anyplace here that sells solar film.

Hey Don,

That sounds like a novel way to attach a filter. As long as the filter covers the entire opening of the front of the lens, I don't see why you would have any issues. 

BE SURE to make certain that this is a secure installation. You do NOT want this contraption to fall off while you are viewing or photographing!

Good luck!

I'm going to use a welder glass too because can't find any solar filters. I thought I would glue welder glass to a protector filter cover that goes on lens

Just be sure the filter cannot come off while using it!

Last week, I spoke with a B&H salesman on the phone. I was looking for binoculars for the eclipse.  On his recommendation,  I purchased  (for eclipse viewing) a pair of  Barska 10X42 Colorado Binoculars,  along with a packet of DayStar Solar Filters. The salesman assured me that these filters would fit the binoculars. They arrived today. I was thrilled! Until... I read what it says right on the The DayStar package.  It says:  50MM BINOCULAR 2-PACK and notes also that this item is "FOR LENSES AND BINOCULARS OF 50MM APERTURE LIKE 10X50 OR 20X50. FITS OVER OUTSIDE DIAMETERS OF 50 - 69 MILLIMETERS".

As I am new to using binoculars, I'm thinking maybe I have it wrong, and these 2 items will be fine together. If I am right, and the filters won't work.... well, I'm hoping they work, but I'm not hopeful. I was told that I cannot return the filters...  but... even more important at this moment is, can I get the filters to somehow fit? Doesn't look there are any alternative, at this late date.  Can I just use masking tape to affix the filters to the binoculars? Any suggestions??  I'm not at all sure this is the kind of question you will address... but I would be immensely grateful for any solutions.

Hey Ruth,

Having a similar experience, I understand your frustration. But, do not fret!

The important thing to do is make sure that the solar material covers the entire opening of the lenses—absolutely no sunlight should get in. Then, use tape or rubber bands or string or whatever you can to secure the filters in place. Literally, last night, I packed a bunch of rubber bands in my bag for just this purpose!

If you are a perfectionist, gaffers tape is the way to go...it doesn't leave a sticky residue and holds strong. Im not pressuring you to buy a roll of gaffer tape...I just don't want to see you get sticky stuff on your new binoculars.

Also, if you are in the path of totality, make sure you have a quick way to remove the filters during the total eclipse phase of the event!

Good luck! Let me know if you have more questions!

THANK YOU!  I ought to be sleeping... heading to Wyoming on Friday : )

Questions: The only photos I plan to take, of eclipse, is one "tourist" shot: me and the eclipse. I know, the eclipse might not be visible...   I have an iPad mini, and a Canon PowerShot Digital Elph. Do I need a filter to use thess before / after totality?
(because if I do... I'll let it go).

AGAIN: THANKS!  I am SOOO excited! This is the one thing I've wanted to experience, and never thought it would happen... I'm now a senior citizen who feels like I did before I drove cross-country alone for the first time, when I was 29.

Now praying for clear skies, for everyone! Or non-obstructive clouds. The forecast in Lusk, WY., is iffy.

I will look forward to hearing of YOUR experience!

Hey Ruth,

Before and after totality, you will need a filter or the sun will look like a huge white area of the frame. :)

I will hope for clear skies for us both, Ruth! Good luck!

I have the same filter which fits over my 50mm finderscope. It came with extra Velcro pads to attach if it was loose. Your binos are slightly smaller and should fit a little loose. You can use this method or masking tape as long as it doesn't fall off your lens. You can easily see sunspots with this filter.

I have a Cannon Powershot ES 520. If I hold a solar sheet in front of the lens can I look in the view finder? Can I use the zoom to fill the frame? I do have a wide angle lens for the camera which I thought might help capture the magnetic flares during totality. Could I leave this lens on for all my shots or just durng totality?

Hey Diane,

Yes, you may look through the viewfinder. Your camera has an electronic viewfinder, so you cannot damage your eyes by looking at it. The brightest it will ever get is all white like any other type of electronic screen. Bright? Yes. Damaging? No.

Yes, you may use the zoom to get the composition you need. I doubt you will need the wide-angle attachment during totality as your lens is pretty wide when zoomed out. I would keep it simple and just use the camera's optical zoom to compose and recompose as needed. Remove the filter during totality and get your shots!

Good luck!

I understand some solar glasses have been recalled.  We glasses from B and H, are they ISO approved?

Hey Tina,

YES! All of the solar glasses we sell are certified and good-to-go! Rest assured!

Thanks for asking!

These are the cardboard type that was sent with my husband order for binoculars with solar eclipse attachment. Actually not bought but put in as an extra ( which was very nice to do). I assume that these are certified also.

 

 

Yes ma'am!

I have the same type. All of our solar viewing products are certified and we buy directly from the manufacturer...not through resellers. 

You are smart to be asking these questions, so thank you! Enjoy the show!

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