Photographing a Solar Eclipse and the Best Camera Settings
There is a Total Solar Eclipse happening over South America on July 2, 2019! Make sure to attend if you’re able to!
It will be visible from select regions in Argentina and Chile. Some locations within Ecuador, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay will experience a partial solar eclipse if there is not intense cloud coverage.
Solar Eclipse Series
- Photographing a Solar Eclipse and Best Camera Settings
- How to Create a Solar Eclipse Composite (Coming Soon)
Any tripod will work, as long as it keeps your camera stable. At the time, I was using my MeFoto Backpacker Travel Tripod.
Any mirrorless or DSLR should be fine. Really any inter-changeable lens camera. At the time I used my Nikon D750.
When viewed from earth, the sun appears small. I would recommend using your longest telephoto lens. I was using my Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 zoomed all the way to 300mm and still needed to crop in a little to achieve a better comp.
Total Solar Eclipse vs. Annular Solar Eclipse
Before you plan to photograph a Solar Eclipse, you must understand the difference between an Annular Solar Eclipse and a Total Solar Eclipse. It’s important to prepare for the conditions so you know which gear to use at the right moment:
A Total Solar Eclipse occurs when the moon lines up between the earth and the sun. The sun then casts the moon’s shadow over the specific region of earth that experiences it. At this time, the entire sun is blocked leaving the Corona of the sun completely visible to the naked eye for about 3-10 minutes (depending on where you are in the path of totality and the max duration of the eclipse, which varies by occurrence). During ‘Totality’ the sky goes dark, the birds stop chirping, a chill is sent down your spine, and you can witness a sweeping sunset-like coloration on the horizon in every direction you turn. It is simply one of the most beautiful sights I have ever experienced. It is surreal.
The moments leading up to Totality, and the moments fading after Totality, the sun wanes and waxes as the moon slowly alters its appearance. Of course, with the appropriate eyewear!
You must wear protective Solar Glasses to view the eclipse until those fleeting moments of Totality.
During a Total Solar Eclipse, use your solar filter for the entire eclipse, except during Totality.
An Annular Solar Eclipse is when the Moon is further away from the Earth than during a Total Solar Eclipse. This means that even in the correct pathway, the moon’s shadow does not entirely cover the sun. At the perfect moment, you are only left with what is called the “Ring of Fire”. When the moon’s shadow is perfectly centered with the Sun, the corona is not visible, and you see a perfect circle of the sun peering through your glasses. It is cool, but does not compare to a Total Solar Eclipse during Totality.
During an Annular Solar Eclipse, the sunlight is visible the whole time. Use your solar filter for the entire eclipse, otherwise you will damage your image sensor.
Detailed Photo Settings
There are no right or wrong settings to use and it’ll vary based on your focal range, camera sensor sensitivity, and editing style. I chose to shoot at lower ISOs (ISO 50 or ISO 80) to increase image fidelity and better control the incoming light from the sun. Stopping down my aperture to the smallest possible size also gave me better control, I used f/40 on my Nikkor 70-300mm f4.5-5.6 telephoto lens. I generally exposed my images between 1” and 1.5”.
These settings controlled some minor sun flare reflecting off my DIY solar filter. Would this happen with a $200 Lee Solar Filter? Maybe not, though I don’t know.
Overall, I am very pleased with the results since I made a solar filter out of cardboard and black polymer. I hope the info helps you take the best images you possibly can!