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How to photograph a solar eclipse with a smartphone 2024 — 8 tips from an expert

A total solar eclipse is about to visit North America — and with the right knowledge, it’s possible to produce spectacular images and videos of it with just a smartphone.

On April 8, 2024, six states in northwest Mexico, 15 U.S. states and six provinces in Canada will be visited by a total solar eclipse. To experience totality — darkness in the day and a totally eclipsed sun — you must be within the 115-mile wide path of totality. Inside the path, you’ll see (using solar filters or solar eclipse glasses) the partial phases of the eclipse on either side of totality, lasting up to 4 minutes and 28 seconds. Totality (and only totality) can be viewed by the naked eye and imaged using cameras and smartphones without solar filters. Outside of the path of totality, you’ll see only the partial phases.

Why smartphones are ideal for the total solar eclipse

Gone are the days when people tried to use point-and-shoot cameras — these days, it’s either a smartphone or a DSLR/mirrorless camera. ‘Smartphones are going to be the way most people capture this eclipse and that’s fine—they will work very well,’ said Alan Dyer, solar eclipse photographer and author of How to photograph the solar eclipse, in an interview with ‘Even if you just hold it up and shoot on auto exposure, you’ll probably get a good shot.’

You’ll never match professional close-up images of the sun’s corona, which use professional cameras and telescopes, but you can get some excellent photos with just a smartphone. Here are some top tips to maximize your chances, but if you’re looking to photograph the solar eclipse with a dedicated camera, be sure to also read our ‘how to photograph a solar eclipse‘ for more generic advice or find the best solar viewing kit for you with our buying guide.

1. Switch off the flash before totality

You can turn off the flash by heading into the camera app’s settings. Flash is normally depicted as a lightning bolt. (Image credit: Jase Parnell-Brookes)

If you’re inside the path of totality, there’s one thing you must do to your smartphone — disable the flash before totality. Using flash won’t help your photography and, worse, it will detract from the experience of totality for everyone around you. If you don’t do this, expect groans and moans in your direction.

2. Don’t zoom in on the eclipse

This next bit of advice doesn’t apply to those with smartphone that have a separate telephoto lens that optically zooms in on far-away subjects. But for the many smartphones that don’t have this, take heed.

Don’t make the one classic mistake that most people make when using a smartphone to take an image of an eclipse. As the eclipsed sun appears, the temptation is to pinch the screen to zoom in as far as you can. It’s so tempting, particularly if your smartphone has a so-called ‘superzoom,’ but it rarely heralds good results. After all, as you zoom in, you lose resolution, and all you are doing is reducing the quality of your image, which will become noticeably grainy and dirty.

3. Go super wide-angle or portrait

The most impactful wide-angle images of an eclipsed sun occur close to the horizon. That’s not going to be possible during this eclipse because totality takes place from a maximum of 68 degrees above the southeast horizon when it’s first seen in Mexico, dropping to about 24 degrees above the southwest horizon as it’s last seen in Canada. So, you might consider using portrait mode to fit in some foreground, though super wide-angle ought to work for many.

4. Lock focus during totality

For most smartphones pressing and holding over the subject you wish to focus on will lock the smartphone’s focus in place. (Image credit: Jase Parnell-Brookes)

A superb image can be had during totality using just a smartphone — but only if you set it up properly. ‘Use a smartphone on auto exposure, and it will probably work, but whether it’s in focus depends on what’s in the foreground,’ said Dyer. ‘It may hunt for focus.’

The answer is to use the focus lock on your smartphone. Exactly how you do that will depend on what smartphone you have and what app you use. For example, on an iPhone’s native camera app, you touch what you want to focus on by pressing on the object on your smartphone’s screen for a second or so. This will lock the focus so you can concentrate only on composition. With plunging light levels just before totality, exactly when and how you do that is key. Once just a slither of the sun is visible in your eclipse glasses and it begins to get suitably dark around you, focus your camera on something in the middle distance — perhaps a tree, building or the bridge on a cruise ship. You can then move the brightness shutter up and down to control the shutter speed — you’ll probably want to take it down a notch.

5. Use burst mode during totality

The diamond ring is the final bead of sunlight before it goes completely dark. (Image credit: Harun Mehmedinovic / 500px / Getty Images)

With the last few beads around the moon, you’re ready to catch one of the highlights of the eclipse — the diamond ring. It’s the final bead of sunlight before it goes completely dark, and the sun’s mighty corona appears. This happens in a split second, and you’ll have no hope of catching it manually, so consider using burst mode to capture the magical moment.

6. Shoot totality in RAW

Some smartphones have the ability to shoot still images in RAW format, preserving much more image data for later editing. (Image credit: Jase Parnell-Brookes)

Totality is dark. If you experienced totality during the last total solar eclipse in North America — on August 21, 2017 —  you’ll recall the twilight and 360-degree sunset effects on the horizon. This time around, the moon will be closer, the path of totality wider, and totality likely significantly darker. That means you need to think like an astrophotographer (check out our astrophotography for beginners guide) and shoot in RAW image format. RAW images retain the original sensor data and skip the built-in processing your smartphone automatically applies to JPEGs.

The way to shoot in RAW is to download a third-party app such as Halide, Yamera or Camera+ 2 and toggle on the RAW mode. Some phones, like the Google Pixel range, will let you shoot RAW without needing any third-party apps.

Shoot as usual; after the eclipse, you can edit and touch up the image in one of the desktop best photo editing apps for astrophotography, or smartphone apps like Darkroom, Afterlight, or VSCO. The finished result will have much more dynamic range, color and detail than any JPEG your smartphone’s built-in camera app produces.

However, since RAW images take up more space, it’s wise to make sure you have plenty of room on your smartphone, perhaps clearing out unwanted photos and apps before eclipse day. Need more space? Back them up on one of the best external hard drives.

7. Don’t shoot a handheld video

Taking images with a smartphone is possible, but try shooting a video for something different. This will come as an instinct for many people watching the eclipse, but most will do it wrong. ‘A lot of people will take a movie,’ said Dyer. ‘But they’ll be waving it about and bouncing around, and all they’ll get is a movie that will make anyone watching it feel sick.’

8. Shoot video using a tripod

When filming during the solar eclipse, it’s best to use a tripod so you can be hands-free or even appear in the video. (Image credit: Jase Parnell-Brookes)

If you do want to film a video, change tack and think about it as a video of you watching the eclipse. A movie of you and your friends and family in silhouette enjoying totality and glimpsing the eclipsed sun will be a treasured souvenir of some of the most magical moments of your entire life.

To do this properly, lean your smartphone against something or, better still, get a small tripod and a universal smartphone holder. Position it properly and compose the movie a few minutes before totality. ‘Put it in wide-angle mode, start the movie going a couple of minutes before totality and just let it run,’ said Dyer. ‘As a bonus, you’ll capture audio — the cheering and you shouting ‘oh my God!’ — a big part of the experience and a great souvenir you can use to relive the eclipse years later.’

Upcoming total solar eclipses

Our solar eclipse guide details at length when and where the next solar eclipses will be, but below is a summary to whet your appetite.

8 April 2024
The path of totality for runs across North America, from northwest Mexico, through Texas and the midwest U.S. and will end over Atlantic Canada, touching 15 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces. Austin, Dallas, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Montreal are just some of the cities that will experience totality.

12 August 2026
Europe is next treated to a total eclipse in 2026, which will be visible from Greenland, Iceland and Spain. Weather permitting, several large cities will see totality, including Reykjavik, Bilbao, Zaragoza, and Palma. Most of western Europe will experience a partial eclipse.

2 August 2027
The path of totality for this 2027 eclipse travels across North Africa and the Middle East before terminating over the Indian Ocean. Egypt will see the longest period of totality, a huge 6 minutes 22 seconds, near the city of Luxor — the second-longest solar eclipse of the century. Given the climate, time of day, and exceptional length of totality, this is likely to be the most favorable viewing position for any solar eclipse in this decade.

22 July 2028
The final total solar eclipse of the decade will happen in 2028, when Australia and New Zealand will witness an eclipse with a maximum totality of over five minutes. This eclipse will be notable for passing over Sydney.

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