5 Steps to Make Your Eclipse Photos Shine

Total eclipse August 21, 2017

A total eclipse of the sun doesn’t happen very often. In fact, it doesn’t happen every decade or even every century.

According to NASA, the opportunity to experience one where you live usually comes around once every 375 years. So the total eclipse that will be visible from a wide swath of the United States on August 21 is going to provide a cool, once-in-a-lifetime diversion for a huge part of the population.

For Americans, it’s the first total solar eclipse of the Internet Age – the last one that was visible here occurred in 1979, five years before Mark Zuckerberg was born – so you can be sure social media will be blowing up with pictures of the event.

Want to get in on the fun? Here are some tips for watching and photographing the eclipse. But first, a safety warning: Never look at the sun without protection, even during an eclipse. Doing so can cause serious damage to your eyes. And sunglasses don’t cut it. You need to take some special steps if you want to safely see the moon block out the sun.

Eclipse basics

An eclipse occurs when the moon’s orbit puts it between earth and the sun, casting a shadow on the earth and temporarily blocking the sun’s rays.

The United States is in the best position for this year’s eclipse. Its path of totality, which is about 70 miles wide, runs right through the middle of the country, meaning people in 14 states from coast to coast will see a full eclipse. But everyone in North America and parts of South America, Africa and Europe will see at least a partial eclipse.

The eclipse will “move” from west to east. It will first be visible in Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 9:05 a.m. PDT. For the next 90 minutes, it will traverse the country, crossing through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Check out this interactive eclipse map to see if and when you’ll be able to see the eclipse.

Tips for viewing the eclipse

If you just want to watch the eclipse, you’ll need to do it safely. There are a few options for enjoying the moon’s big moment while also protecting your eyes.   

  • Get a pair of special eclipse glasses. You might be able to score a pair from a local science museum, school or astronomy club. Or you can purchase a pair of ISO 12312-2 compliant glasses online. But beware of scammers who have cropped up selling bogus glasses. Consult the American Astronomical Association for a list of reputable vendors. NOTE: Do not try to watch the eclipse with regular sunglasses. They don’t offer enough protection for your eyes and you could seriously damage your vision.
  • Build a simple pinhole projector that lets you and your friends watch the eclipse indirectly. 
  • Build a slightly more sophisticated box projector using an old cardboard box. 
  • If you own a telescope, you can build a sun funnel – and be a hero to your friends and neighbors.  

Tips for taking pictures

First the good news: you can use your smartphone to take pictures of the eclipse.

The bad news: they probably won’t be that great.

To get really good shots of the eclipse, you’re going to need some quality gear. That said, you can rig up your phone to get some serviceable shots of the moon hiding the sun. Be advised that there is some debate about whether taking pictures of the eclipse will damage your smartphone, so do so at your own risk. 

The eclipse will last just a few minutes. But no one is going to simply take one picture and call it a day. You’re going to want a series of images showing its progress. So the first thing you need to do is back up your smartphone and delete some of those pictures of your vacation two years ago. Nothing would be more frustrating than setting up the perfect shot only to find there’s no more room on your device for it.

For quick and easy backup of your iPhone or Android phone, try the free Acronis True Image mobile app, which lets you back up your entire mobile device – photos, videos, contacts, text messages and calendars – to the secure Acronis Cloud. The free app comes with 5 GB of storage. If you have a lot of images or videos to upload, you can get an Acronis True Image 2017 Plus subscription with 250 GB for just $49.99 ... and you’ll also be able to back up your entire PC and all your mobile devices. 

The big moment

OK, now you’ve got enough room on your device to hold the hundreds of pictures you’re going to take. What’s next?

Follow these five steps to get the solid shots you’re looking for.

  1. Make sure you have a tripod or a way to stabilize your phone. Even the slightest camera movement is going to make the image blurry and ruin all your other preparation. 
  2. Get some sort of solar filter. The easiest thing would be the special eclipse glasses mentioned above, which you can place over the lens. If you’re lucky enough to be in the eclipse’s path of totality, you can remove the filter during the full eclipse. Just make sure to put it back on as the sun re-emerges from behind the moon.   
  3. Before shooting, make sure the image is properly focused. This sounds obvious, but for the eclipse, you’ll need to do this manually rather than relying on the camera’s auto focus feature.
  4. The phone’s built-in digital zoom will not create a clear image, so if you want a truly decent shot you’ll need to buy a zoom lens attachment [$20-40].
  5. Set the delay timer on your phone to five seconds. That will help further stabilize the smartphone and produce vibration free images.  

If you are a serious photo hobbyist, Popular Mechanics and Nikon have some great, in-depth tips on how to get quality shots and the gear you should consider using. But you should follow the advice above about making sure you have enough space on your camera. Your best bet is to copy the contents of your camera’s SIM card onto your PC and then back up those images using Acronis True Image, the world’s fastest and most complete backup solution. 


Final Thought:

The solar eclipse on August 21 that will be visible in North America and parts of South America, Europe and Africa is going to be incredible to witness. It’s a rare event, so follow the steps above if you want to photograph it. And whether you’re using a smartphone or a digital camera, make sure to use Acronis True Image to back up your images before and after the eclipse. You need to make sure you have enough room on your device for all the pictures you’ll take, and you certainly don’t want to lose your memories of this once-in-a-lifetime event after the fact.