If you are planning to step outside next week -- smartphone in hand -- to catch a glimpse and a photo of the total solar eclipse, there are several guidelines you should follow.
Many photographers agree: You probably will not fry your phone if you point it to the sky on Aug. 21 for a moment or two, but you may not get a quality image either.
Depending on your location, the sun will fade to black in the path of totality, or you’ll enjoy a sliver of sunshine during the partial eclipse.
No matter where you are in the United States, experts at NASA stress the importance of protecting your eyes and camera.
Here are some general guidelines from NASA to help facilitate a better phone photo:
- Smartphone lenses are generally small and therefore won’t let in too much light. Smartphone UV filters will help diffuse light and phone cameras have short exposure times, so many photographers agree that a few images from the phone won’t cause major damage.
- However, use eclipse glasses that meet the appropriate safety standards to cover the smartphone lens during the moments before and after totality.
- Do not stare at your phone screen that’s pointed to the sun without wearing your own eclipse glasses.
- The tripod is an issue. If you don’t use a stabilizer, you might find you’re snapping blurry images. If you do use one, the images may be clearer but your phone camera could be pointed directly at the sun for a long time, increasing the risk of sensor damage.
- It’s okay to take pictures briefly with the sun as part of a landscape – wide-angle shots will probably work best for phone cameras without additional lenses. If you zoom into the eclipse with a standard phone camera, expect a pixelized image.
- If you use a telephoto lens for your phone camera, you still need a solar filter on the front of that lens.
- Take your photography to the next level with smartphone apps that allow manual control of the camera.
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Hudson Henry, a professional adventure and travel photographer, recommended the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom mobile app for manual control and additional tools right at your fingertips.
If your smartphone camera has the High Dynamic Range (HDR) setting, he suggested shooting images with HDR enabled and then disabled for variation.
"As the sky gets dim, position your phone low with a cool foreground object or people against the sky with most of the image containing the sky and eclipse," he said. "You will get cool, dimly lit photos."
If you have a tripod attachment for your phone, use it as the eclipse becomes complete, Hudson told AccuWeather.
"If you don't, then brace yourself and hold very still as you work. Most of all, make sure you take time to just watch and enjoy," he said.
The path of totality will pass through 14 states, and everyone in North America will see at least a partial eclipse.
Keep in mind, NASA makes no official recommendations for those people who are photographing the partial eclipse.
“Using optical filters to photograph the eclipse when you are not on the path of totality is inherently risky because you are looking at the blindingly bright solar surface,” NASA said in it’s smartphone photography guide.
“NASA makes no recommendations about how to safely photograph the partial eclipse phases because of the huge number of optical filter and camera models that may potentially be used and often with unsafe outcomes.”