In just two weeks, the most exciting celestial event of the century, the total solar eclipse, will finally take place. It's the Great American Eclipse, and it hasn't occurred since 1918.
If you live in one of the states in the narrow path of totality, you'll see all the action. But even if not, you'll still see a stunning partial eclipse. Either way, you might want to capture the moment on August 21. (You can find out when it'll cross your zip code here.)
Whether you plan to take photos with you iPhone or DSLR, these are the rules to follow to get the perfect shot.
If You're Using Your iPhone
Believe it or not, you don't need fancy equipment to get a cool shot of the eclipse. To take a photo with your iPhone or other smartphone, astrophotographer Andrew Symes advises placing a pair of eclipse glasses in front of the camera lens for protection. Before doing so, wipe off your lens to make sure there are no finger smudges to get in the way of a clear shot.
Consider setting your phone up on a small tripod to ensure that shaky hands don't get in the way of a great shot. Then, to lock focus, simply open the camera app and tap and hold the yellow square until you see "AE/AF Lock" appear in yellow along the top of the screen.
While you can play with the exposure by sliding your finger up the screen to make the scene brighter and down to make it darker, Symes says don't zoom in on the sun. Doing so can result in an overly grainy photo. Instead, make any adjustments — either zooming in or cropping — after taking the photo.
If you want more of a zoom effect, you can attach your iPhone to a telescope's eye piece, so long as it has a solar filter. Symes recommends putting your camera on burst mode and setting up a three-second delay. This way, you won't need to worry about accidentally bumping your phone when you press the shutter button. To turn on burst, tap the timer icon in the upper toolbar within the camera app and select 3s.
If You're Using A DSLR
If you're using a more advanced camera, you must purchase a special solar filter. Failure to do so puts your expensive lens — and more importantly, your eyes — at risk of getting damage by the sun's bright rays. Watch this short video for a look at what can happen to your camera if you don't use a filter.
According to Ken Sklute, a Canon Explorer of Light, and photographer Dave Henry you can use your camera's LCD display to find the best shot — but you should avoid looking through the viewfinder. If you want to make sure you have the right exposure and zoom set up ahead of time, do a trial. In the days leading up to the big event, take a few test photos of the moon to perfect your setup.
To get the lighting just right, download the LightTrac app. It will help you find the best angles to shoot at leading up to the moment of totality.
The only time that it's safe to take your solar filter off your DSLR, or your eclipse glasses off your iPhone lens, is during the moment of totality when the moon completely covers the sun. (If you're not within the narrow path of totality, they'll need to remain on during the entire eclipse). Use an app, like Solar Eclipse Timer, to know exactly when this moment will occur.
If you feeling the need to show off after take tons of gorgeous photos of the Great American Eclipse, try one of these sharing tools.