Tag Archives: Smartphone

Smartphone Photography of the April 8, 2024 Eclipse

Many people, including me, will try to capture some images of the eclipse on Monday, April 8. This blog is aimed at people in the Greater Washington DC area who will experience a partial eclipse. If you travel 6 hours due-west of Washington DC you will be on the Path of Totality and your experiences will be dramatically different.

In the Washington DC area, the eclipse will start at 2:04 PM with the dark lunar disk taking its first little bite out of the solar disk, and end at 4:33 PM as the moon leaves the disk. The maximum partial eclipse will occur at 3:20 PM when the moon will block about 89% of the solar disk. Here’s what that looks like:

You will notice a rapid darkening of the daylight sunshine so that instead of the normal mid-afernoon sun it will look more like early twilight for about 5-10 minutes before the daylight finally starts to return.


This is a partial eclipse. Only use approved ‘eclipse glasses’ and not sunglasses. You will not be able to see the fabulous corona unless you are on the path of Totality.

I know it is tempting, but good photography practice is NOT to point your camera at the sun with no filter…including your smartphone. Smartphones have faint light meters for twilight photography and you run the risk of damaging this meter so that you may not be able to take low-light-level photos anymore.

Manage your expectations. You will not see the corona that everyone talks about. With your Eclipse Glasses you will see a sequence of partial stages that look something like this. This was taken by NASA/Noah Moran at the Johnson Space Center during the August 21, 2017 eclipse which was only a partial eclipse over Houston, TX. Also, instead of seeing a super-huge image with the naked eye, you will only see a disk as large as the full moon in the night sky.

Smartphone Photography Tips.

  1. On sunday at 3:30 pm go outside and check that your viewing location will give you a good view of the sun. Put on your Eclipse Glasses and check that your view of the solar disk is unobscurred. The higher the sun is above the clutter at your chosen location the better your experience will be.
  2. On Friday, Saturday or Sunday before the eclipse, place one of the lenses of the Eclipse Glasses over the selfi-camera lens located at the top edge of your smartphone just below the center of the top edge.
  3. Start-up your camera and place it in selfi mode.
  4. With the sun’s disk over your left or right sholder, check that your camera display shows a bright orange disk of the sun and adjust your camera angle so that the disk is centered and unobstructed by your head.
  5. Your camera should automatically be able to focus on the edge of the sun disk and set the camera’s exposure. This photo on a cloudy morning on Friday April 4 without editing was automatically taken by my iPhone 13 Pro camera at 1/15 of a second at an ISO of 1600.

With no clouds, the sun disk should be crisp with a good clean edge. You may need to experiment with the manual focus if your camera allows you to do this.

6. You might want to experiment with manipulating this test image of the filtered sun to get the best clarity and background. With stray clouds this is a challenge as the image below, adjusted with Photoshop, shows. I adjusted the brightness and contrast.

The crispness of the solar disk was compromized by the diffusing of sunlight in the foreground clouds. You will have a better experience if there are no clouds in the way. To get an idea of what this optimal picture would look like in selfie-mode, here is an image of the moon taken by my iPhone 13 Pro in selfie mode. You will see a similar-sized solar disk with the filter covering the selfi camera lens but you will only see the sun disk and not the foreground trees etc. This was the best focus my camera in this mode was able to provide with its smaller lens.

A second mode of solar photography is to take your camera out of ‘selfie’ mode and use the normal forward camera. It has better lenses and resolution than the selfie camera. Here is an example of a photo of the moon taken in this mode. Notice that the lunar disk is much clearer. Your eclipse picture in this mode will have the same clarity but of course the sky and foreground will be completely black through the filter.

The set-up for a higher-resolution direct image requires some preparation. You might want to create a sun shield out of foamboard that covers a 1-foot x 1-foot area.

Cut out a square hole in the center that your camera lens can peak through as shown in the left-hand image.

Cover the camera lens opening with the Eclipse Glasses filter and secure all pieces in place with tape as shown in the middle picture.

When you want to photograph the sun, start up your camera in its normal ‘forward’ mode and place it over the filter opening as shown in the right-hand image. Keep your eye close to the camera display so that your head is shadowed by the shield. If you want, you can secure your smartpone to the foamboard with tape, but be sure that you place a 3×5 index card over the display so that you don’t get glue on it. Otherwise, you can hold the camera to the filter opening manually.

As before, your camera should be able to automatically focus on the eclipsed solar disk to give you the best clarity your particular camera is able to provide.

Good luck…but make sure you take the time to enjoy the eclipse and not worry about getting a perfect photo with your smartphone!!!