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2017 Eclipse Blog / FAQ

How do I take pictures of the eclipse?

Unless you have special solar filters for your camera and telescope, you can’t even set up for pictures like this – the heat of the sun will melt your lenses (not to mention your eyes)!

If you want to pull out a point and shoot during totality, be advised that your pictures will NOT be any good unless you go for something of human interest. First of all, you need a huge telephoto lens to take pictures of something the (apparent) size of the Sun. If you don’t believe us, go out and take a picture of the full Moon the next time you see one. It’s about the same size as the Sun, and it will show you the kind of results you’ll get. Leave picture-taking to the astronomers and the folks with filters and huge telephoto lenses, and simply enjoy the view with your eyes.

Whatever you do, do NOT use any type of flash! Not only will you not get pictures that are any good (see above), but you’ll ruin the experience of the eclipse for everyone around you when your flash goes off! Put the camera up, and watch the thing! No picture ever did justice to a total eclipse anyway!

9 Responses to “How do I take pictures of the eclipse?”

  1. Thomas F Perry says:

    I am a retired professional photographer. Although i viewed a total solar eclipse several years ago in Venezuela, I was a teacher at the time and had no opportunity to photograph the eclipse. Now that I live within an hour of the umbra near Georgetown, SC, I have begun preparations to photograph it’s totality. I have the proper filters, cameras and lenses to record all phases of the eclipse. One camera will be used to making detailed images with either a 300mm or a 200-500mm lens, whose selection will be determined by testing. For that phase, I also wish to make a sequential set of images from the earliest onset of the eclipse through its final stage.

    I have a few questions regarding this second camera setup.
    How many degrees does my camera need to cover the beginning to the end from a fixed position?
    What will be the total amount of battery life will I need? Since i will not be using the fixed sequential camera to record totality, I will have time to change batteries if necessary. My lenses can cover from 102 – 15° but i would prefer to use a prime lens rather than a zoom.
    What degree of coverage would be optimum?

    • Admin says:

      Hi Thomas –

      You will need to use the interactive map at:

      to find the circumstances for your location. If you click on any location on the map, you will be given the coordinates of the Sun at all the important eclipse times from first contact through fourth. By seeing what the alt and azimuth are at each contact, you will be able to see what range of coverage is needed. This is indeed an art, so the calculations are important to have correct. The calculations provided by this page will allow you to figure the coverage that is needed.


    • Skyhiker says:

      The rotation of the earth alone covers 15 degrees in an hour. You can calculate that by dividing 360 degrees by 24 hours. That would be for an object on the celestial equator (ninety degrees from the celestial pole. The celestial pole is the area near Polaris, for us in the northern hemisphere). The sun will be a little bit north of the celestial equator (because it’s summer time in the northern hemisphere), so it will actually cover a small amount less distance than fifteen degrees per hour, but allowing 15 degrees per hour will give you an outside bound.

      Check on the length from “first contact” (moon first touches the sun) to “fourth contact” (sun completely out from behind the moon) to know how long the eclipse will last at your location, and allow 15 degrees per hour, and you’ll have room to spare.

      Probably, at that scale, the sun will be quite small, so you might decide to just shoot at 300mm and create a composite photo, later.

  2. Jim says:

    I am trying to figure out the best way to photograph the eclipse. I have an ETX-90EC and an iPhone, as well as a sun filter. I purchased a cheap adaptor to mount the iPhone to the ETX, but am having trouble getting a good picture of the sun with it. The ETX gives a beautiful composition of the sun and can be used with the eye to see sun spots. So, it seemed a good candidate for attaching the iPhone to take pictures of the eclipse if I just had the right eyepiece. Does anyone have a solution?

    • Skyhiker says:

      The sun (and, in fact, a lot of astrophotography of the sun, moon, or planets) can be tough, because you’re shooting a bright object against a black background (assuming you’re using a filter on the sun, which you are obviously doing, as you must). You do need to keep your phone’s camera lens centered directly over the eyepiece opening. The cheap adapters do let you do that. But, depending on the eyepiece, the opening might be quite small. A bigger eyepiece helps, but I’m pretty sure the etx-90 does not do 2″ eyepieces.

      If you are using a 1 1/4 inch eyepiece, lower magnifications (longer focal length eyepiece, like 32mm or 26mm, etc) generally have larger eye-end glass to look through, and will be easier (but not easy) to get a shot through. You might also find that using a segment of the cardboard tube, like from the inside of a roll of toilet paper, can help you center your phone over the eyepiece, and has the added benefit of shielding extraneous light from your camera phone. You will need to get your camera phone lens right up to the glass to successfully shoot through, however.

  3. Scott Icard says:

    I plan to VIDEO the eclipse using a Nikon CoolPix P520. I am a total amateur, so I am seeking guidance. Do I need to set ISO and f-stop, or just let the camera do it in auto? I’m sure I’ll have other questions!

    • Admin says:

      Scott – I am so sorry, but I cannot begin to give you advice on a particular camera. You have to do the research and test. It takes hours, I get that – but it’s the reality.

  4. g wall says:

    U might look into “equatorial mounts” in this the main axis is parallel to the Earths axis. It points at the North Star. Only one dial to turn. I would like a “clock drive” which steadily rotates telescope at same rate as Earth turns.* Sky and Telescope magazine likely has ” how to” articles
    *Not “As the World Turns” that was an old TV slope opera ha ha

  5. Aldo Cugnini says:

    Best experience is to take test shots in advance. Although the sun will be at a different altitude due to the seasons, the angular distance traveled by the sun will be similar, but the trajectory will be further south on eclipse day.

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