Shooting the Eclipse with your Smart Phone

MGN Cropped Photo: Masaru Kamikura / CC BY 2.0 License Link

Professional photographers with thousands of dollars invested in equipment will take amazing photos of the eclipse on August 21st, but the most common photo you'll see on social media will likely be taken by smartphones.

Unfortunately, most will not look very good, but it is possible to get a decent and memorable photo with whatever you have in your back pocket — iPhone, Android or otherwise. Just don’t let the desire to get that perfect Instagram, Twitter or Facebook pic distract you from the once-in-a-lifetime event itself!

Related: How to capture the perfect photo of the total solar eclipse

To get the best shot possible, you need to plan ahead and have the right equipment.

  • Smartphone tripod - The slightest bit of motion will cause the image to be blurred. Put your smart phone on a tripod, set the time then back away.
  • A telephoto lens attachment - Make sure your choice specifically says "optical zoom" and is between 12x and 18x. Optical zoom uses the lens of the camera to bring the subject closer. Digital zoom takes a central portion of an image, crops it and then enlarges it back to size. In so doing, you lose image quality. The zoom function on your phone is a digital zoom. Avoid using that to avoid lower-quality pictures. You’re already trying to take a photo of a celestial event that’s very far away, so give your phone the best chance possible. These lenses cost $20 to $40.
  • A solar filter -This is crucial during the partial phase of the eclipse when any part of the sun is still visible. If you don’t have one, your photos will be severely blown out. You can simply use the material from a pair of solar eclipse glasses and hold it in front of the camera.

Other tips

  1. Focus - Don’t count on your auto-focus to do it right. You have to do it manually, and this is as simple as tapping the screen and holding your finger on the moon to lock the focus.
  2. Exposure - The dark sky will trick your camera so that you just see a bright ball of white light. You will need to outsmart your smartphone by adjusting the exposure. iPhone: tap the screen for a box and little sun icon to appear, then slide you finger up or down to adjust exposure. Android: find manual mode through the camera app and adjust from there.
  3. Probably the most important thing to remember, do not look directly at the sun! Make sure you have your eclipse glasses on if you plan to look up. It is perfectly safe to look at your camera's display.
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