How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse with your Phone

21 Jul

If you want to take a photo of a solar eclipse but don’t have a solar filter for your DSLR camera or a solar-filtered telescope, there is a simple option: take a photo with your smartphone through eclipse glasses!

Before the eclipse, find a pair of solar eclipse glasses (also called eclipse shades). These can be purchased at low cost online or from local telescope stores. Some local libraries or associations also give these glasses away for free in advance of an upcoming eclipse.

By holding the glasses over your phone’s camera, you’ll be able to dim the brightness of the sun and take photos as the moon crosses in front of it. Without eclipse glasses, the sun is too bright to photograph with a smartphone, but the glasses dim the brightness enough to get a decent photo.

iphone-solar-eclipse

The sun will appear small, but you should be able to make out the shape of the moon as it takes a bigger and bigger “bite” out of the sun. Once you have aimed the phone/glasses combo at the sun and see it on your screen, lock the focus and adjust the brightness down or up if necessary. You’ll be tempted to zoom in, but don’t do it. The digital zoom function on your phone will probably make the sun look too pixelated or fuzzy. You can always crop the photo later.

Here’s a photo I took of an un-eclipsed sun in this fashion with my iPhone 7:

iPhoneSun

If you’re lucky enough to live in a region that will experience a TOTAL solar eclipse, you can remove the solar glasses from the phone’s camera during the few minutes of totality (when the moon completely blocks the sun) and take a photo using the regular smartphone camera. During these short minutes, the sun’s light will be completely blocked by the moon and the scene will be dim enough to photograph without a filter.

Remember, the only safe time to look at the sun without a solar filter is when the disk of the sun is completely covered by the moon. This only lasts a few short minutes, and only happens along the “path of the total solar eclipse” as shown in this map of the August 2017 event. At all other times, and in all other locations, you can only look at the sun with proper eye protection.

EclipseMapAug2017

Other Eclipse Photography

If you want to try DSLR photography or photography through a properly-filtered telescope, B&H Photo has an excellent eclipse photography guide on their site.

And, again, NEVER look at the sun without eclipse glasses, NEVER look through a camera viewfinder at the sun, and NEVER aim a telescope at the sun unless it has a certified solar filter attached to the front of it and you are an experienced telescope user.

4 Responses to “How to Photograph a Solar Eclipse with your Phone”

  1. Squiggly August 17, 2017 at 11:57 am #

    Hi! Thank you so much for this great idea! Just wondering how you got it completely black around the sun. I tried but still got some light around the edges of my photo. I didn’t hold the eclipse glasses as shown in your photo, but taped the filter directly over my iPhone 7 camera lens. Your further thoughts would be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

    • canadianastronomy August 17, 2017 at 2:54 pm #

      Thanks! That’s very strange because I literally held my glasses in front of the lens with no tape and no stray light came in. I would suggest trying it without tape and moving the glasses around until you get a completely black shot.

      • Squiggly August 20, 2017 at 8:52 pm #

        Thank you! Hoping it’s not too cloudy here in Omaha tomorrow!

  2. Peter Ravenscroft August 19, 2017 at 1:56 am #

    G’day Andrew,

    Your photos are superb. Thanks on behalf of one and all.

    I havhifts, top to bottom of mantle, hence the mantle. So the physics is real. See ed Espenak’s NASA maps, against a good El Nino and La Nina record.
    e found that total and solar eclipses rcossing the Pacific equator at year end unfailingly give us El Ninos, and lunar ones La Ninas. Eclipse is just a shadow, but the barycentre s

    I can’t say how this one will play out, being north and out of season.

    .Get back with an email, if you are interested. Farmers ought to know.

    Regards anyway

    Peter Spencer Ravenscroft
    Geologist
    Ravenswood Wildlife Sanctuary, (Google knows it)
    Closeburn, Queensland

    Phone 617 3289 4470 Email p.s.ravenscroft@gmail.com

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