You surely know, after heaps of warnings, not to watch the Aug. 21 solar eclipse without heavily filtered glasses.
But what about those inevitable selfies with the sun? Advice for the most photographed event of the year isn’t so clear.
NASA itself debates whether smartphone photos of the eclipse can damage the phone’s camera.
Some photographers argue that the tiny lens is too small to admit damaging light to the sensor, and that the cameras automatically set exposures for very short times. Others note that recent cameras come with bigger, faster lenses.
There’s also the danger of inadvertently hurting your eyes by simply pointing your phone toward the sun, the space agency says.
“The best thing to do is to cover the camera lens with a solar filter during the moments before (and after) totality when the sunlight is still blinding. This will eliminate sun glare blooming and give you a clear image of the solar disk,” NASA says. Eclipse glasses will do.
iPhone maker Apple begs to differ.
Most smartphone photos show a wide-angle view, of which the sun will be a very small part, Apple tells USA Today. Pointing an iPhone at the sun – even during the eclipse – won’t damage its camera sensor or lens, the company says.
Just make sure to protect your own eyes first with certified eclipse glasses.
Photographing the eclipse with a non-smartphone camera also requires more care to protect the user. Solar filters must be placed over the outer element of telephoto lenses, telescopes or binoculars.
Smartphone photos of the eclipse
▪ Practice photographing the full moon to get an idea of how the sun’s (tiny) image will appear.
▪ Learn to use the camera’s manual focus and exposure controls to improve results. Download an app such as Camera+ or NightCap Pro for greater control.
▪ Consider buying a zoom lens attachment, such as by makers Olloclip or Moment, and a small tripod. The camera’s built-in digital zoom will not yield sharp images.
▪ Instead of trying to shoot the sun, photograph or video the people around you as the light fades. Or steady the phone on a tripod and take time-lapse photos of the scene.