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How to take pictures of the 2024 solar eclipse: 11 tips from the pros to snap the most dramatic photos

Kelly Burch   

How to take pictures of the 2024 solar eclipse: 11 tips from the pros to snap the most dramatic photos
  • Even smartphones can get great photos of the total solar eclipse on April 8.
  • Scouting a great location and practicing your shots ahead of time is key.

Whether you’re on the ground or in the sky during this year’s Great American Eclipse, you can get stunning photos with a digital camera or a smartphone. You just need to plan ahead a little.

“The last thing you want is to try to play it by ear when it’s happening because then you’re going to miss it,” astrophotographer Jon Carmichael, who took what's considered one of the most stunning photos of a solar eclipse ever in 2017, told Business Insider.

Here’s how to get the best shots, according to Carmichael and Andrew Studer, a photographer whose work has been published by National Geographic and BBC Earth, to name just a few.

1. Get to totality

Tens to hundreds of millions of people across the US will get to experience a partial solar eclipse on April 8. However, a smaller percentage will get the life-changing opportunity to witness something called totality, when the moon completely eclipses the sun.

If you’re already in the path of totality, you’re in great shape. If you’re not in the path of totality, you can still take some nice photos but they won't be as dramatic because even if the moon covers 99% of the sun, the sky is still significantly brighter than if the sun is 100% eclipsed.

“It’s literally a night and day difference,” compared to the partial eclipse that will be visible over a wider swath of the US, Carmichael said.

Over 30 million people will be in the path of totality, which will move from Texas to Maine. You can check to see if you’re one of them with this helpful NASA map.

2. Scout your spot — then have a backup

The most important factor for great eclipse photos is something we can’t control: the weather.

When you’re deciding where to watch the total eclipse, pick your ideal spot, factoring in historical weather patterns for early April, Carmichael said.

Then, have a backup location if the forecast is cloudy.

Even if you have to watch the eclipse from the side of the road, having a clear sky is more important than a more picturesque, but cloudy, vantage point, he said.

3. Use apps to your advantage

There are lots of apps that can help you create a great eclipse photo.

Studer recommends PhotoPills, which allows you to plot the position of the moon and sun ahead of time.

Carmichael likes Solar Snap, an app developed by former Hubble Space Telescope Astronomer, Doug Duncan, that acts as a solar filter for smartphones and lets you use long exposure to get great shots of the sky.

It's important to have a filter on your smartphone or camera. Otherwise, if you point it at the sun during an eclipse, you could concentrate too much heat on it and ruin the electronics.

4. Consider renting equipment

It’s possible to get a great photo of the total solar eclipse with just your smartphone or a basic digital camera. But if you want a close-up of the sun and moon, you’ll need a telephoto lens.

Studer recommends renting one. A 200 millimeter (mm) lens is good for most shots, he said, while a 400 mm lens will reveal even more detail, like the corona of the sun or craters on the moon.

5. Go automated

You don’t want to spend the entire time during the eclipse trying to snap the best photo. You’ll miss the chance to appreciate this cosmic event without looking through a lens or screen.

“I guarantee to anybody it will be the most beautiful moment you will ever see in your life,” Carmichael said.

With that in mind, Carmichael recommends using a tripod and adjusting your camera settings so it can snap photos automatically while you take a moment for yourself.

The period of totality during this eclipse will be up to 4 minutes and 26 seconds, depending on your location. So you may even snap a few photos hands-on, then enjoy totality for yourself, if you time it right.

6. Practice 24 hours before

Once you’ve found the perfect location, get on site 24 hours before the eclipse.

“It’s really good to spend the day before planning things,” Studer said.

The sun will be in nearly the same spot it will be in during the eclipse, so use its position to plot where you’ll stand, how you’ll frame your photo, and the angles you’ll shoot.

7. Don’t forget glasses – for your phone

Before you start shooting on the day of the eclipse, make sure your gear is safe. This is especially important if you’re taking photographs with a smartphone, which has a delicate light sensor, Carmichael said.

The simplest fix is to hold a pair of eclipse glasses over the phone lens to help filter light. If you’re using a camera, a solar filter can help you get a great photo without damage.

8. Include other subjects besides the moon and sun

While the moon and sun are the stars of the eclipse, having other subjects in your photo helps give it context, Studer told BI.

He took this approach with his well-known 2017 photo showing a rock climber against the background of the eclipse.

Whether it’s a dramatic rock formation, a tree, or the profile of someone you love, the juxtaposition of a subject and the sun is very powerful.

“Having a subject within the image makes it more fun, more unique, and more special to the photographer,” Studer said.

9. Zoom out

Carmichael’s famous photo that he snapped in 2017 took shape in his head long before the actual event.

He knew he wanted a wide shot that involved not just the eclipsed sun but also the shadow of the moon and the shape of the land around him.

To get shots like that, his advice is simple: “Zoom out,” especially if you’re on a mountain or other high-up vantage point.

For his famous photo, Carmichael was thousands of feet in the air on a Southwest commercial airplane.

10. Look around

While your eyes are trained on the sun during an eclipse, there’s a lot happening around you, Carmichael said.

During the partial periods of the eclipse (before and after totality) shadows take on a distinct crescent shape, there’s a dramatic 360-degree sunset effect, and animals often behave strangely.

All of these phenomena can make for great photos, Carmichael said.

11. Enjoy it

Another total solar eclipse will cross the continental US in 2044, but it typically takes about 1,000 years for the path of totality from a solar eclipse to return to the same spot.

For most, the April 8 eclipse will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so take time to enjoy it.

"It's a perfect moment to just pause, look up at the heavens and appreciate something that is so miraculous," Carmichael said.


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