How to Photograph a Total Solar Eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse

In-Depth: How to Photograph the Solar Eclipse

The moon is going to completely block the sun, and you want to be in the shadow for this event. While creating casual photographs of the eclipse is easy, that's not what we do. Yes, you should take in the experience while it is happening, but quality digital images will clearly bring that experience's smile back for a lifetime. And, we love a challenge.

With the right camera setup and a carefully planned and practiced procedure, you will be capable of creating exceptional solar eclipse images. The planning is part of the fun.

I'm going to start the How to Photograph a Total Solar Eclipse photography guide with two warnings. The first is imperative for your vision, and the second may impact your time, finances, and, positively, enjoyment.

1. It is critical to properly use certified safe for viewing solar filters or glasses when directly looking at the sun, including any tiny portion of it, especially through an optical viewfinder or other optics.

2. The second warning is that total solar eclipse photography is addicting.

The total solar eclipse photography planning instructions may sound complicated, but you've got this. Read the instructions, get your gear, practice, and repeat.

When and Where is the Next Solar Eclipse?

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A statement of the obvious is that to photograph a total solar eclipse, you need to know when and where the eclipse will be. As I write this guide, April 8, 2024 is the key date. These sites provide the broad when answer, including for future events:

The following sites provide the where answer, along with immensely helpful details (click on the maps):

The selected viewing location determines the event timing, including duration, which the above charts provide in great detail.

Solar Eclipse Viewing Location Selection Considerations

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While the partial eclipse can be viewed from a vast area, including most of North America for the 2024 total solar eclipse, only a partial eclipse will be seen from most locations in that path. Partial eclipses are entertaining, but they are far less exciting than total eclipses. Select a location within the path of complete totality. An area with less than 100% obscuration is not good enough.

The choice of location depth into the path of totality merits consideration. The solar eclipse centerline provides the longest duration of totality, and despite the 2024 eclipse being super long, that up to 4 minutes 28 seconds of spectacular photo opportunities will pass unbelievably fast. The eclipse duration difference between the absolute centerline and many miles away isn't huge. The moon's shadow is circular, and a choice within the center 25-50% of a long duration eclipse should work well.

There is also a reason to select a location just inside of the edge of the centerline. The edge of the sun shining through the moon's canyons just prior to the total eclipse, Baily's Beads, provides an outstanding image, and this phenomenon lasts the longest at the edge of the total eclipse path. Richard Wilds indicates the alternative ideal location for 2024 is 1/2 to 1 mile inside the southern edge and just yard's inside the northern edge.

Consider a high-altitude location, if availed in the path, for a clearer atmosphere.

Weather, specifically heavy cloud cover, can impede eclipse visibility, ruining an otherwise spectacular show. For those of us traveling for this event, forecasting future weather based on historical averages is the best we can do. This page provides the cloud cover outlook:

For the 2024 eclipse, this forecast suggests that Mexico is the optimal choice. Texas is the next best choice, and the El Nino update shows Texas with an improved outlook. Optimally, stage in one location and be ready to travel far to an alternate location should the weather forecast go bad.

Cloudy Solar Eclipse

Do not let clouds cancel your shoot. The sun often shines through clouds, and clouds sometimes create a moodiness that is welcomed in images.

Plan the specific shooting location, the piece of ground you intend to plant your tripod on — not just a town in general — in advance. Most non-public locations require permission. For the 2017 total solar eclipse, numerous churches in an 8-hour drive swath granted me permission. The final selected church even provided us restroom privileges, and a donation made the scenario a win-win.

During a total solar eclipse, the sky goes dark, and dark instructs photocell-controlled lights to turn on. Those familiar with night sky photography understand that dark skies are important when photographing a dim subject, such as the Milky Way, and, relevant in this case, the outer reaches of the corona. Expect town and city efforts to mitigate this issue to vary. The optimal choice is to select a naturally dark sky location. This map will help.

Heat waves are another problem to avoid. Setting up on an asphalt parking lot is asking for image clarity problems.

Remember that a clear view of the sky throughout the eclipse path is required.

One more viewing location consideration is the time of day of the eclipse. Do you prefer a morning eclipse or a late one? A midday eclipse, with the sun high in the sky, provides the least atmosphere to shoot through. A low sun makes environmental images considerably easier.

Expect and Plan for Epic Traffic Jams

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Don't take this advice lightly. If traveling, you should plan to be at your location long before the first contact, and you should have sufficient supplies, including food, water, medications, gas, etc., for long after the sun is fully uncovered.

Traveling often leaves us tired, so arrive early enough to comfortably set up and have time to relax before the show.

What is the Best Lens for Solar Eclipse Photography?

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Generally, photographers will look for an environmental image to include the sun progression or they will focus on the sun alone. Most landscape lenses will work fine for the environmental option. Find an interesting foreground if implementing this plan.

I plan to include only the sun and its corona in the image, but if a landscape captures my interest, I may opt to capturing some landscape images during totality to use for a composite image.

During the partial eclipse with the sun properly exposed, there is no benefit to include more than the sun in the frame. Nothing but the sun will be visible, and all else will be a black background — a blackground.

Since a black background is easy to create in Photoshop, framing the sun as large in the frame as possible is logical, and most of us do not have a too-long focal length lens in our kits. Here are some full-frame camera examples, with the APS-C/1.6x equivalent angle of view focal length shown in parenthesis.

Sun Photography Focal Length Comparison

Xavier's exposure calculator, linked below, offers another focal length comparison. Also, study the appearance of final images to set the goal:

Note that the 1680mm example above was captured using the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens with both 1.4x and 2x extenders behind it. While that combination delivers a favorable sun disk size, the image quality is bad.

When selecting a focal length, remember that the sun moves its diameter every two minutes, and you always want the sun near the center of the frame (unless including the landscape). As mentioned, you can add a black background and reposition the sun later, if such is desired. Your lens optically performs its best in the center of the frame.

Peripheral shading impacts eclipse image quality during totality when the outer streamers are included in the exposure. If the sun is not centered, it will not be in the center of the shading. Correction during post-processing is helpful, and using a lens and focal length with low amounts of peripheral shading is even better.

Allowing for at least modest cropping to account for sun movement makes sense. Framing ahead of the sun so it moves into the center during the exposures is a good plan.

The longer the focal length, the harder the sun is to find in the frame, the harder it is to keep the sun in the frame, and the more challenging obtaining sharp images becomes. I prefer the 1200mm angle of view, a 600mm F4 lens with a 2x extender or teleconverter behind it. However, I may use a 1.4x teleconverter instead to gain more relaxed framing that enables framing the sun for longer durations (increased cropping headroom), shorter shutter speeds for faster brackets, sharper image quality, and increased corona included during totality.

Then consider that the corona extends 5x the diameter of the sun, and a wider lens, between 300 and 800mm (full-frame references), may be preferred during totality.

Regulus, Diamond Ring, and Total Solar Eclipse

Again, view the sample images to establish your goals. I recommend using the same focal length throughout all partial eclipse phases, making the creation of a progression series easy.

Optimal is having two full setups in place, which also provides full redundancy in case of an equipment failure. However, keep in mind the added complexity of running multiple and different rigs.

Flying with two heavy setups adds to the challenge, and my first thought was to use the 2x teleconverter until totality and then remove the teleconverter to capture a wider extent of the corona. However, the lens must be focused before the sun is fully blocked, and removing the teleconverter is not likely to retain the desired focus. Changing zoom lens focal lengths during totality will likely create the same focus problem.

I set up three cameras in 2017, but didn't have time to manage the third camera during that shorter eclipse.

Ensure that the time and date on all cameras are correct and synchronized, facilitating sorting by the capture date and time later.

Using a second camera during totality provides a full battery and empty buffer.

Wide aperture lenses are advantageous for solar eclipse photography, primarily during totality when long exposures are needed to capture the corona streamers. However, the camera's maximum shutter speed may be exceeded when using that widest aperture for the brighter shots. Stopping down the aperture is the easy solution, which usually results in less peripheral shading. Narrow aperture lenses will work fine and are an especially good choice for a one-time need.

I recommend using a 600 to 1200mm full-frame equivalent focal length lens during the non-totality phases, and 400-800mm is ideal for totality. The longer the focal length, the less forgiving the setup will be to weakness in the support or technique.

If you don't have a long telephoto lens, a scheduled solar eclipse is a good reason to get one (order it through one of the links on this site to support us). Renting is a good option if this lens would only have a one-time use for you (reserve that rental early).

Note that even the sharpest lens used with the perfect technique will not produce perfectly sharp details on the sun. We have the atmosphere to thank for that. Fortunately, the corona is soft and hides atmospheric and motion blur that becomes more obvious at long exposures. On the sharpness topic, the benefit of a 2x extender is somewhat impacted by the image degradation it causes, resulting in somewhat less than a 2x benefit from a details perspective. On the other hand, extenders utilize the center portion of the lens's image circle, which avoids the strongest peripheral shading.

If planning to shoot upward with an extending lens that doesn't lock at its intended use length, gravity will attempt to retract it. Use enough gaffer tape to ensure the extension doesn't change.

What is the Best Camera for Solar Eclipse Photography?

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While most cameras will work fine for this purpose, higher-end models have advantages. My strategy includes using 3 custom modes, which are found only on midrange and high-end models, in addition to the ever-present M mode.

Another helpful high-end camera feature is a fast burst rate. During near totality and totality, a range of continuously captures bracketed exposures is needed, and the shots should be repeated for assurance and variation. The fast frame rate gathers these images with less sun movement between them (unless using a tracking mount) and provides time for more capture attempts. For example, Baily's Beads change rapidly, and it is possible that a 20 fps burst can deliver nearly twice as many images as a 10 fps burst.

Higher-end cameras usually have more internal memory for a higher buffer depth, write images to the memory card faster, support faster cards and card types, and support alternate writing to multiple cards, which significantly decreases the write time and increases the number of shots until the buffer is full. Managing the buffer is critical during totality — a full buffer at the wrong time means missed opportunities. Swapping to a second camera while the first empties its buffer may increase the success of the shoot.

Test your camera to understand its capabilities and buy faster memory cards. Swapping a full card can result in missing a key stage of the eclipse, so I recommend high-capacity memory cards.

Feature-rich cameras sometimes offer more images in a bracket. Also, consider the available images per bracket. While the Sony Alpha 1 offers up to 9 exposures per bracket, it is missing the "7" option that I wanted to incorporate.

Note that it is helpful to hear the shutter release when capturing continuously captured brackets. An electronic shutter is advantageous for its lack of vibration (aside from the R3, Canon shooters must weigh the reduced to 12-bit downside), but I recommend enabling the shutter sound to audibly know when a continuous bracket capture has completed. Ensure that your camera can take the longest exposures in your plan in electric shutter mode.

High-pixel density imaging sensors can resolve more eclipse details than lower-resolution models using the same lens and focal length. If focal length limited on a full-frame camera, an APS-C model with a high pixel density may provide larger details in the final crop.

Minimally, enable mirror lockup when using a DSLR, and better still, use live view, effectively making it a mirrorless camera.

To enable a low tripod setup, the camera should have a tilting or vari-angle LCD (shaded from direct sunlight). An angle finder is helpful when using some DSLRs' optical viewfinders. Take your reading glasses if you need such to see the LCD at a close distance.

Total Solar Eclipse

What is the Best Tripod and Head for Solar Eclipse Photography?

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The more solid the tripod and head are, the less likely vibrations will require a shutter release delay and the less likely vibrations will impact the imagery during the exposure, especially at the long exposures required during totality.

Don't settle for a cheap tripod. Great tripod options include:

There are many other models that will also work well.

The lower the tripod setup, the less vibrations, including from wind. Try first shooting with all legs retracted, and increase the top, largest diameter leg sections until just high enough for comfortable use (this is a multi-hour event, and the comfort aspect will be appreciated). If wind is a problem, set up behind an obstruction, such as a vehicle or building, and remove the lens hood.

I highly recommend using a two-way style head on a leveled base for solar eclipse photography. While few will know if your eclipse image is tilted, differing levelness may become obvious during a progression series composite — strive to keep progression images true. When the base is level and the head moves in only two axes, the camera levelness is no longer a concern, simplifying and hastening composition during the entire shoot.

Some of the best options are gimbal style heads, and these models are excellent choices:

A high-quality fluid video head will also work well. I frequently see geared heads recommended for this purpose, but the lower-end geared heads are highly susceptible to vibrations.

Ensure that your tripod and head combination accommodate the camera angle required to photograph the eclipse in your selected location. Of special interest is clearance between the camera and the tripod chassis.

Clicking on the maps shared above will provide the angle. Test your setup's capability and learn more here: How to Shoot Upward with a Large Lens While Using a Gimbal Tripod Head.

Understand how the sun's position in the sky changes during the event and how the head will need to rotate. Position the tripod to best accommodate the arc, perhaps positioning the front leg in the direction of the total eclipse.

While I love the convenience of using the camera's self-timer to let vibrations settle, even the 2-second self-timer option is far too long for certain eclipse photo ops. Thus, I opt for a wired remote release. The release allows precise timing control and faster repeat captures when the camera is not touched between shots. Note that the remote release cable itself can cause vibrations. Attach the cable to a tripod leg to shield the camera from such movement.

Manufacturers usually recommend turning IS, OSS, OS, VC, IBIS, etc. off when using a tripod. Image stabilization can make tripod-mounted composition difficult, fighting against you, and shot-to-shot variances that challenge HDR processing can occur. However, some lenses feature an auto tripod sensing mode and adjust to the vibrations typical of a mounted lens, including those caused by wind. Mode III IS does not impede composition.

Consider Using Tracking Mount

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A tracking mount takes a time and energy-consuming aspect out of solar eclipse photography. While time and understanding are required to set up a tracking mount, the sun will remain in the center of the frame during the event. Ensure that you can polar align the mount in daylight (or do so during the night).

Easily transportable tracking mounts can handle mid-sized lenses, but those required by super-telephoto lenses are troublesome to transport by air. The Sky-Watcher EQ6-R Pro Equatorial GoTo Mount has long called me, but I'm not ready to fly with it.

What is the Best Solar Eclipse Filter

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Research led me to choose the Alpine Astronomical Baader AstroSolar BDSF 3.8 Digital Solar Filter. This filter is not viewing-safe — it is suitable only for a mirrorless camera. However, the reduced density enables faster shutter speeds that are extremely helpful when using long telephoto lenses. I do not advise using this filter in front of a DSLR camera, but a DSLR becomes mirrorless-like when the mirror is ALWAYS up in live view (auto sleep mode, if enabled, closes the mirror).

As you will learn below, the filter must be quickly removed and then quickly installed as the sun becomes totally blocked and then reappears. Removing and installing a fully installed threaded filter consumes time at super important moments. Tighten such a filter just enough to be secure. If something goes wrong while installing the filter, and you don't want to feel rushed, position your body in front of the lens to create shade that avoids damage. The Alpine Astronomical filters are friction fit, enabling fast removal and installation without concern of the wind blowing them off, which is potentially destructive to the camera and lens.

Consider where you are going to place the filter when it is removed to avoid a mental freeze.

The Alpine Astronomical filter produces an optically correct white sun. Technically, the sun is white, and solar filters that produce an orange sun are filtering certain wavelengths of light stronger than others.

Alpine Astronomical Baader AstroSolar BDSF Digital Solar Filter White Sun

That said, the white sun appears harsh, and artistically, I prefer my sun to be orange. Still, I seldom wish to filter specific light colors during image capture.

Fortunately, turning a white sun to orange is easy to accomplish in Photoshop. Here is how to change a Baader solar filter's white sun to orange:

  1. Open the white sun image in Photoshop
  2. Add a new layer above the sun image layer
  3. Change PS's foreground color to #ff9c38
  4. Use the paint bucket tool to fill the new layer with the selected orange color
  5. Change the orange layer's blending mode to "Multiply"
  6. Add a color balance adjustment layer and set the blue slider to +10
  7. Add a vibrance adjustment layer and set vibrance to +20 and saturation to +10

This image shows the result of those steps.

Alpine Astronomical Baader AstroSolar BDSF Digital Solar Filter Orange Sun

The Baader filter provides both sun color options — and many others. Change the layer fill color to create a blue, or another color of your choosing, sun.

Do not mount the solar filter to the end of a petal-shaped lens hood, which creates light leaks. I've mounted these filters to round shaped lens hoods with no problem but currently opt to mount them directly on the end of the lens, which requires smaller filters, keeps them in closer reach, and reduces the wind footprint of the lens.

If photographing with more than one lens, get a solar filter for each. All lenses used during totality need focus established and locked before the sun's limb goes dark, and that timing requires a solar filter.

Note that all other filters should be removed. UV filters, for example, can cause increased flare and ghosting.

Buy certified eclipse glasses for direct viewing. You will have time to use them between partial eclipse photo captures. The experience will be worth far more than the $1 they cost.

Diamond Ring and Solar Eclipse

The Solar Eclipse Stages to Photograph

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A total solar eclipse progresses as follows:

  • Full Moon Prior
  • Full Sun
  • Partial Eclipse (C1, 1st contact)
  • Diamond Ring (C2, 2nd contact)
  • Baily's Beads
  • Total Eclipse with Chromosphere, Prominences, Corona, and Earthshine (maximum eclipse)
  • Baily's Beads
  • Diamond Ring (C3, 3rd contact)
  • Partial Eclipse
  • Full Sun (C4, 4th contact)

Capturing an image of the prior full moon enables the creation of a composite image showing the moon over the blocked portion of the sun.

Include full sun photographs from before and after the eclipse in your take-home. With the 2024 solar maximum, sunspot activity is high, adding potential for unique imagery.

Unless clouds are providing changing opportunities, partial eclipse images should be captured at a predetermined interval. How many phases of the partial eclipse period do you want in your gallery and in composite progression images? Calculate the number of partial eclipse images needed to create the desired progression series image.

If multiple rows are desired, a specific number of images will be required to keep the row counts even. Do the math, keeping in mind that the sun moves its diameter every two minutes and that having too many images is a much better problem than not having enough.

Aways shoot multiple images of each stage to ensure a momentary atmospheric distortion blip doesn't ruin the set.

Baily's Beads and Solar Eclipse

What are the Best Exposure Settings for Solar Eclipse Photography?

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Before we delve into this complicated topic, plan to use your camera's non-lossy compressed raw image format to gain the most image data available for processing. Also, don't let Concentration Apnea, a constant problem for me, hinder you — keep breathing.

Exposing for the exposed sun with a proper solar filter in place is easy. Use the camera's M (Manual) exposure mode. If you've never used manual mode, now is your chance to learn it — you will appreciate knowing how to use it.

Next, determine the brightest exposure that does not push a histogram channel completely into the right wall. The blinkies sometimes show up just before a channel is blown, but avoiding the blinkies should fully avoid blown highlights. In this case, it is better to err on the side of underexposure than overexposure.

For a data point, 1/2500, f/8, and ISO 100 were optimal with the Alpine Astronomical "3.8" filter in place during its review. The Meade Glass White Light Solar Filter is a viewing-safe filter (blocks 99.999%, approx. ND5), and 1/320, f/8, and ISO 400 provided an optimum result. However, conditions vary, including from atmospheric extinction and air clarity, the ideal exposure must be determined before and monitored during the event. Should conditions vary due to clouds, exposure bracketing may prove useful.

The center of the sun is brighter than the periphery, the limbs, so as the sun becomes mostly covered, 90% or so, the exposure duration should be increased.

The shooting is relaxed to this point. As the sun becomes nearly entirely blocked, we get to the sweet center, where the level of photographic difficulty and rewards skyrocket.

The key to photographing the progression from the first diamond ring through the second diamond ring is using the camera's auto exposure bracketing feature to capture the extreme dynamic range available. Bracketing also accommodates changes from eclipse to eclipse.

Note that I prefer bracketing in - < 0 < + sequence for an easier sort order during post-processing. This choice is often selectable in the camera's menu.

Use the information provided on the following pages to determine the range of estimated (again, eclipses vary) exposures you need to capture, based primarily on your choice of lens aperture and ISO setting. The maps above will provide the elevation and sun altitude to use in Xavier Jubier's calculator.

Plan a set of auto exposure brackets needed to capture all available light data, and program your camera's custom modes for them.

The solar eclipse progression during totality is extremely fast, and you need a formulated and practiced plan in place. The simpler the plan, the more likely it will be successfully executed.

Focusing on the dark sun is difficult. So, lock in a focus distance setting 5-10 minutes before totality and switch the lens to manual focusing.

At your own risk: the filter comes off at about 30 seconds before the second contact (recommendations range from 20 to 60 seconds), totality. Just before removing the filter, compose the sun so that it will move into the center of the frame at the ideal time. You want the filter off and the next camera settings made with time for the vibrations to stabilize before shooting. Whatever timing your choice, DO NOT look at the sun, especially not through an optical viewfinder, until the sun is completely hidden.

Filter removed, get ready for the diamond ring (overexposed tiny portion of sun peeking over the edge of the moon) and one of my favorite phases, Baily's beads (limb of sun shining through the moon's canyons). In addition to other images desired, capture exposure brackets in rapid succession starting about 20 seconds before totality. The optimal moment to capture the diamond ring effect is about 6-20 seconds before totality, so ensure that mutilple brackets are captured around this time. The diamond ring exposure required depends on how much sun remains exposed and how large you want that blown out area to appear. Stopping down the aperture can aid in creating diffraction spikes that give the diamond some sparkle.

The optimal moment to capture the Baily's beads phenomenon is about 0-4 seconds before totality, so again, ensure that bracket is captured, along with at times just before and after. To get the crips beads along with color in the chromosphere, use a fast shutter speed, as advised.

The Solar Eclipse Timer app will help you know when that incredibly short timeframe is happening.

Note that you could easily miss this stage if your tripod and lens take 10 seconds to stabilize and you make contact with it at the wrong time. Program a single custom mode auto exposure bracket to solely handle this part of the eclipse.

Alternatively, I was successful with one camera continuously shooting at f/8, ISO 100, and 1/1250 in 2017, though this setting was slightly bright for some of the features. I intend to dedicate a camera to continuously shoot with those settings with a 1/5000 shutter speed in 2024.

Ensure buffer capacity remains available for photographing the chromosphere, visible only for about 6 to 10 seconds after Baily's beads, and prominences are visible for a short time after that.

Once Baily's beads go dark, capture the extensive HDR exposure brackets that include chromosphere, prominences, corona, and earthshine. The plan discussed below will provide suggested exposure suggestions for the totality phase. Note that very long exposures consume more of the short amount of time available, and increasing the ISO to shorten exposures can be logical.

During totality, just keep shooting. Shoot multiple sets of HDR brackets for insurance. Also, take a glance at the moon at this time.

Switch back to Baily's beads and diamond ring mode about 30 seconds before totality ends (C3). Again, carefully time the bracketing starting about 15 seconds before C3, and capture brackets of Baily's beads (optimal at about 0-4 seconds after C3) and the diamond ring (optimal at about 6-20 seconds after C3) while readying to quickly install the filter at about 30 seconds (recommendations range from 20-60 seconds) after C3.

With the filter installed, take a deep breath to recover from Concentration Apnea. The bracketed images will later be merged using HDR software, and the second half of the shoot is as easy as the first.

Go back to capturing the partial phases, chasing the exposure until the sun reaches its full brightness and finishing out your progression images for the composite image(s). Or, if clouds are present, capture completely different images than those already on the card.

Prominences and Solar Eclipse

What is the Best Solar Eclipse Photography Plan?

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Using your selected location and camera setting information, use the recommended exposure resources to determine the estimated range of brackets required. Then, create your plan.

Complexity increases the chance of something going wrong, so I attempt to create the simplest-to-execute plan that delivers a solid set of images. Achieving that goal involves an, at first glance, seemingly complicated spreadsheet.

As mentioned, my primary lens will be a 600mm F4 with a 2x teleconverter behind it, resulting in an f/8 max aperture. The f/8 plan will work for most lenses, and those with f/11 maximum aperture lenses can decrease the shutter speed by 1 stop or increase the ISO by 1 stop. Similarly, adjusting the plan to other max apertures requires changing the shutter or ISO settings a corresponding difference amount.

For the full sun and partial eclipse, the camera's M mode will be used with redundant single-frame captures, bracketing if conditions warrant.

Starting with the diamond ring, the current (still adjusting) plan utilizes 5 and 9- frame autoexposure bracketing and 3 custom modes. While 9-frame brackets provide considerably more exposure options than 5, the extra 4 shots take time to capture and use the camera's buffer. At some times, 9 exposures are not needed, and faster repetition is important.

Know how your camera's AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) feature works. The brackets will be triggered by a remote release with a shutter release button, a Vello wired remote release to be specific. Set the camera to its fastest frame rate and turn off the self-timer with bracket feature. If the camera requires the shutter release to be pressed for the duration of the bracket, ensure that you hold it down long enough for the brackets with long exposures at the end. Some cameras do not store bracket drive mode in the custom settings. Thus, changing the drive mode to continuous bracketing may be required in addition to selecting the desired C mode.

Holding the remote shutter release down until the shutter sound for the burst stops, releasing and pressing it back down immediately nets about one 5-frame burst per second. That is my plan for C2 and C3 eclipse transition timing.

My custom mode 1 bracket (all bracketed exposures are 1 stop apart) is intended to contain all exposures needed from the diamond ring until full totality and for the same features on the other side of totality for just-keep-pressing-the-remote-release simplicity. This bracket will also cover the expected full sun exposure while the solar filter is installed in case I want to make the custom setting change early or don't get to it after the peak action. As mentioned, continuous shooting mode at 1/1250, f/8, and ISO 100 with the remote release button locked down delivered an excellent set of images from these phases.

All three custom modes will be used in sequence during complete totality, with camera vibrations given enough time to settle between each bracket adjustment (mode dial change). The brightest images are needed to incorporate the streamers in the periphery, and longer exposures are needed to capture the widest streamers in a wider focal length than a longer one. The brightest 400mm exposure must be considerably brighter than the brightest 1200mm image.

The planned custom mode 2 features a 9-exposure bracket with some overlap with the custom mode 1 bracket and ending at a hopefully still motion-blur-free duration, but pushing that boundary. No worries, because custom mode 3 overlaps the concerning brightness exposures with faster shutter speeds and extends the range to even bright exposures. The 9-stop custom mode 2 alone should create a great HDR result.

Recenter the moon, leading its direction slightly, between each set of 3 brackets or as needed.

I will have a second camera for backup purposes, a hot spare, but I'm still arguing with myself about taking a second (and third) tripod and lens with a wider focal length and a wider aperture. If that happens, I'll use the same procedures on both cameras, with exposure brackets adjusted as necessary. The wider lens also needs filtered or directed away from the sun at C3.

Here is my solar eclipse photography plan:

Solar Eclipse Photography Plan

Download the Solar Eclipse Photography Plan for f/8 in PDF format or the Solar Eclipse Photography Plan Excel Worksheet in a .zip file to customize for your needs.

Hopefully, with the aid of the legend at the bottom, you can figure out the logic. Again, this plan utilizes ISO 100 (and one bracket at ISO 400) and an f/8 aperture, available on most lenses. Simply adjust the ISO or shutter speeds relative to alternative settings.

Shooting at f/11? Increase the shutter durations by one stop (move the shutter speeds up 3 cells in their column) or use ISO 200 and 1600 instead.

Shooting at f/5.6? Decrease the shutter durations by one stop (move the shutter speeds down 3 cells in their column).

Keep in mind that motion blur becomes a problem at long exposures, motion from vibration, and motion from the earth's rotation. Know the max duration your camera's pixel density and lens's magnification can accommodate (or guess short) (Xavier's tool estimates this duration without tripod support quality considerations), and boost ISO settings to gain a faster shutter speed. Counter wind-caused vibration the same way, with a higher ISO setting and a shorter shutter speed.

Some cameras allow settings to be saved and loaded to and from a memory card. This method permits fast setup of a backup or second camera if the same plan is to be used.

Know that AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) may reset to off when the camera auto powers off. Disable the auto power off to avoid that problem.

If your camera does not have custom modes or does not have enough custom modes, learn how to manually make the changes to the bracket.

I plan to turn off long exposure noise reduction for the event. Optional is to later (after the eclipse is over) take multiple (16 is recommended) series of dark frame captures (lens or body cap on) using the same exposure brackets (same shutter and ISO settings) used during totality to use for long exposure noise reduction during post-processing (if necessary). Some experts also capture a large number of "flats" to use for peripheral shading correction. Raw image processing software should help with this task.

Timing the Progression

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Some potential solar eclipse images have extremely short opportunity windows, such as within a second, and removing the filter early or installing it late may cause equipment damage. An app such as Gordon Telepun's "Solar Eclipse Timer", which I used in 2017, is highly advantageous and strongly recommended.

If you already have this app, download the 2024 data set via an in-app purchase.

Run the app on a fully charged phone to hear a play-by-play during the event. Consider attaching the device to an external battery or power supply to ensure complete coverage of the event.

Gordon will give you a play-by-play of the event, and the practice session option will teach you what to expect.

Advised is to turn off the phone's auto lock and setting the screen brightness to medium-low. On an iPhone, navigate to Settings > Display and Brightness: Auto-Lock: Never; Brightness: medium-low (not auto)

Use the app in practice mode before the eclipse.

Another incredibly useful app is Photo Ephemeris.

This tool permits eclipse simulation and even shows how Baily's beads will appear from your location.

How to Focus the Lens when Photographing a Solar Eclipse

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Autofocusing on the sun or the edge of the sun often works ideally for this task. If one edge doesn't work well, move a focus further along the sun's border or find a sunspot. If autofocus still complains, zoom the live view image, and manually focus. Review a test image to be certain.

You will hear advice to establish focus before the eclipse begins, switch to manual focus, and tape the ring to prevent any changes throughout the rest of the eclipse. I can tell you from experience that this does not always work — and photographing at an upward angle in the heat may result in the focus distance not holding. If opting for this advice, diligently monitor for changes.

I plan to adjust this strategy as seems logical during the progression but will lock in manual focus before totality as the fully blocked sun is difficult to focus on.

Going Hyper-HDR with the Partial Solar Eclipse

Photograph the Full Moon Prior

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A super HDR composite of the full moon and the sun is another option to create for your gallery. The last full moon before the solar eclipse will provide a close to ideal moon size, and photographing it will be good practice for the main show.

Later, overlay the moon on a partial eclipse image.

Practice the Solar Eclipse Photography Plan

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Even small issues can ruin the key eclipse shots. Perform practice runs until you can confidently and rapidly complete each step. Confirm that images that include all of the correct exposure values show up on the card.

Start practicing early enough to recognize and resolve insufficiencies in your gear.

Successfully completing practice runs will add stress-reducing confidence during the event.

There are No Second Chances

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OK, you get two chances at the diamond ring, Baily's beads, and other C2 and C3 features available before and after the middle contacts, but you don't get another chance to photograph a total solar eclipse soon. In 2024, totality lasts just under 4.5 minutes, and it doesn't take a big problem to consume that time.

Ask the what-ifs, incorporate redundancy into the plan, and consider having a full second camera and lens setup immediately ready for action.

Have fully charged spare batteries in the camera to start the shoot, and install fresh batteries at opportune times, such as 10 minutes before totality.

Prepare yourself for the conditions. Dress appropriately, and have water available. Take a Walkstool or similar. Shooting next to shade may be appreciated. A tarp, blanket, or plastic under the camera setup may be helpful.

Back-Up Your Images Immediately

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You can expect to go nowhere fast in the post-eclipse traffic, so plan to hang out at the shoot location. Have a picnic, call it an eclipse party, and address a top priority — backing up your eclipse images to your laptop and a portable drive.

Additional Considerations

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It gets dark during the total eclipse. Have a flashlight immediately available and understand how to use your camera in the dark.

I advise removing neck straps. They get in the way when shooting upward and may increase lens vibrations if the wind is blowing them.

If you are photographing in a crowd, flagging tape and a method of holding it in place may prove helpful in preserving sufficient space.

If photographing around unknown others, do not leave gear unattended – theft could end your shoot before it begins.

Take a photo of your setup to capture the behind-the-scenes story.

Compiling this free solar eclipse photography guide required weeks of work — your continued support of the site is important.


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The 2024 solar eclipse totality may be the fastest 4 minutes 28 seconds of your life. This eclipse promises to be an amazing show — like the 2017 total solar eclipse was.

Put your plan in place to create incredible images that you will value forever.

We'll talk about post-processing the bracketed images later.

I'm in. The airline ticket to Texas is purchased. See you there!

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