How to watch and take pictures of the solar eclipse with your phone camera


On Monday, August 21, folks in North America can observe a very rare astronomical event that will make your dog howl, and the cows stop giving milk. While the so-called "path of totality," when the moon covers the sun and its corona atmosphere in their entirety, will only be available to people in a stretch from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina, others can still observe a partial eclipse. Needless to say, a lot of you will be reaching for the phone camera in your pocket to try and immortalize the event.

Apple already confirmed that the iPhone can take pictures of the upcoming solar eclipse no problemo, but that's not all there is to it, if you are planning on documenting this galactic event with your smartphone. "You can point your iPhone at the sun right now to take photos and the camera’s sensor and lens would not be damaged," commented the team from Cupertino. "The same is the case for the solar eclipse."

You see, smartphone lenses are very small, LG is just now offering an f/1.6 aperture to let more light in, and, in general, they also have filters to restrict some of the light falling on the sensor. Moreover, the vast majority of people shoot in automatic mode, where the camera software chooses very short exposure times when there is an abundant light to shoot against. To capture really great eclipse shots, though, without resorting to your DSLR, here are the most basic things you can do:

1. Get eclipse-friendly shades for yourself (not sunglasses!). That's the first order of business, if you don't want to scorch your retina, but since a lot of counterfeit glasses don't really comply with the required ISO 12312-2 certification that means they block any harmful rays coming your way, check out the American Astronomical Society's list of reputable vendors before you score a pair;

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2. Get the same glasses for your phone - we kid you not. While technically you can shoot the eclipse photos without breaking your phone camera, the results will be much more palatable if you used a filter, like the one you use for your own eyes. This one we use for aesthetic purposes, as without the filter in front of your iPhone's or Android handset's lens, the solar disk will cause only sensor blooming to see on your photos or videos;

3. Use a mount or a tripod to set the angle beforehand. You only have about 2.5 minutes in total to shoot the eclipse, so the angle you want to shoot at, the filters, and your fingers, have to be ready beforehand;

4. Place the solar filter/specialized glasses before your smartphone's lens in the moments before, and just after the "totality," as during the eclipse itself you obviously won't need any filters to mess up the scene. If you want to shoot the scenery around during totality, the results will be as if you are shooting at dusk, so some low-light mode would be appropriate.

That's it, you can use all the tricks in the bag that your phone is capable of when shooting the eclipse on August 21, just remember to get a set of solar filters for both you, and your trusted handset.

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