November 8, 2023

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Can you take a photo of an eclipse with your phone?

3 min read

AUSTIN (KXAN) – On April 8, 2024 a total solar eclipse will darken the sky, with the path of totality spanning numerous U.S. states.

The path stretches from Texas northeast through Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.

If you’re planning on recording the phenomenon with your phone, experts say there are some crucial missteps to avoid.

Can an eclipse damage your device’s camera? 

For those keen to snap a photo of the eclipse, University of Colorado at Boulder Astronomer Doug Duncan advised keeping your cellphone camera down unless equipped with the proper gear. 

“The lens of your camera, the lens of your phone or the lens of your eye will concentrate the sunlight and ruin your camera, your phone or your eye,” Duncan said. 

“If you point your camera toward the sun and hold it there for any length of time, you’re going to concentrate so much heat, it’s going to ruin your phone camera, and you’re not going to get a good picture anyway,” he added. 

How to protect your device

There is, however, a way to snap a quality photo of an eclipse without damaging your device. 

Duncan is a bit of an eclipse hunter. He’s traveled around the globe to witness eclipses and even leads groups of hundreds at a time to locations where sights are expected to be the most spectacular. 

“Everybody loves a souvenir with your phone. But surprisingly, nobody had thought about how to make a souvenir of an eclipse,” he said.

Just like an eye needs protection, so does a camera lens. Duncan recognized this and worked with an optics company to innovate a filter that can be attached to a phone for an eclipse. The product, called Solar Snap, also comes with an app to help get those photos social media-ready.

“The filter that protects the phone is exactly the same as the glasses that protect you,” Duncan said.

Duncan’s product is available online and at some stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s. He said if you don’t get his product and still want to snap a picture, you could try putting eclipse sunglasses over your device’s camera, but added it might be a struggle to get it right. 

“The problem is you got to hold the glasses, you got to hold your phone, you’ve got to adjust your phone for the right exposure,” Duncan said. “If you have three hands, that works great.” 

And don’t even think about trying to use your sunglasses, he said.  

“I’ve measured how dark these little eclipse glasses are compared to a pair of sunglasses – they’re 1,000 times darker,” Duncan said. “You would have to pile 1,000 sunglasses [on] your face to get the same filtering action.”

He also warned consumers from purchasing eclipse glasses online as he’s heard of cases of people purchasing “fake” ones. 

“It’s one thing to get a fake Gucci bag,” he said. “It’s a lot worse to have go blind because you’re looking with something that doesn’t protect you.”

NASA says it doesn’t recommend individual brands of glasses, but says that safe solar viewers must comply with the ISO 12312-2 international standard.

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