How to photograph a solar eclipse – SAFELY!!

A rare event is on the horizon..or rather in the sky, this Friday at approx. 9.30am (starts around 8.25 am and ends around 10.40am). A solar eclipse in the UK. We will only be able to witness a partial eclipse. My sister in law in the Faroe Islands will witness a total eclipse but then she witnesses the Northern Lights (must go and see her soon!!)

how to photograph a solar exlipse

Anyway – how do you SAFELY photograph an eclipse?  Looking at the sun through your viewfinder is DANGEROUS! Even when the sun is covered it is still dangerous to look at it with a naked eye. Please don’t do it.
You will need:
• A tripod or sturdy surface for your camera to remain still.
• A dSLR – compacts (turn the flash OFF) will get the shot but you’ll have to point and guess as you click.
• A LONG lens min 300mm but a 500mm++ or a converter on your lens would help.
Neutral Density filter (around a 10 stop) to stop your image from over exposing but preferably a solar filter to reduce glare and protect you and your lens.
• A clear day – or at least visibility to the sun.

• Find a clear space without tall buildings and a clear shot at the sun.
• Set your camera to focus on infinity (do not try and focus directly on the sun), then switch the lens focus to manual so it stops trying to refocus. To do this – focus on a really distant object – lock the camera focus, then switch to manual and do not move the focus again!
• Set your camera to manual (M)
• Use a small aperture setting (LARGE number F11-f16 – no more than that as you will get lens distortion)
• Set your camera to ISO 100
• Set the shutter speed to 1/8000 (or very fast) and experiment with shutter speeds around this mark.
• Set your exposure compensation settings to underexpose around -1 or -2 depending on your camera
• If you have an auto bracket mode, I suggest you set your camera to this mode (it will take three fast shots – one under, one normal and one over exposed each time your press the shutter)

You can try to photograph without an ND filter (you could place a spare pair of solar glasses across your lens (good for compacts) as a last resort.
If you are not using an ND filter, try to minimise light coming in by setting the slowest ISO possible on your camera, aperture to F16 and the very fastest shutter speed and under-exposing by the maximum your camera will allow (-3-5) You may get away with it..just.

And be wary.  Photographing a partial eclipse is, however, difficult and dangerous – just pointing your camera or smartphone at the sun may damage the sensor – but given the right conditions you may be able to get a memory snap.

Now – decide to shoot just the maximum eclipse or a sequence?

Personally, I am going to attempt a sequence and then blend them in Photoshop, patience will be required and a stationary position for your camera. Do a few test shots first to make sure you are happy with the level of exposure then fire away. Remember, that the light conditions will change as the moon covers up more of the sun so some adjustments may be needed (such as slowing down the shutter slightly).

Composition – don’t worry – simply get the shot and crop later. If you are photographing a sequence you may want to ensure that there is room to show that in your final shot. But again editing will come to the rescue.

You could try alternative shots…
Photograph the reflection of the sun in water or on building windows

OR make a pin hole camera…..

To make a pin hole camera..:

Take two pieces of cardboard around A4 size – at least one needs to be white to act as the screen
Cut a square in one piece, about 2” square, then tape a piece of foil over the square.
Now create a pinhole in the middle of the foil
Make sure the sun is behind you
Put the pinhole cardboard as far away from the white cardboard as you can. (The further away, the bigger the image you’ll create) and shine the sun through the pinhole camera and enjoy the image on your ‘screen’ – better still have someone photograph the image you create


Remember to post your shots on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @wetakefabphotos #candc #solareclipseuk