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This upcoming May parts of the USA will experience a solar eclipse. So this leads to me wondering how you photograph the sun/solar eclipses and ensure that you do not damage the camera (or your eyes)?

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The answers may also be relevant to the transit of Venus on July 5-6, 2012. This next transit of Venus will not occur until 2117.,_2012 – coneslayer Apr 4 '12 at 1:07
Good answers on this one too, about taking pictures of the sun although not about eclipses in specific:… – mattdm Apr 4 '12 at 1:56
@mattdm - Thanks for the link. That does provide some info but does not answer the question. – L84 Apr 4 '12 at 2:47
Rememeber, safety first. Do not look at sun with remaining eye! :- ) – Paul Cezanne Apr 4 '12 at 8:31
up vote 5 down vote accepted


All care and no responsibility !!!
This is YOUR eyes at stake - exercise due care.
If smoke curls gently from the camera, odds are you have got it wrong.
Be very aware that a camera optical system MAY focus the suns rays into a viewfinder - even if the main image is defocused.

Don't be scared away by the potential risks - just be certain that you have adequately allowed for them.

Main methods are

  • A suitable neutral density filter.
    Absolute certainty of performance is needed.
    Beware pinholes !!!!
    People have had eye sight damaged (not surprisingly)

  • Photograph a projected image.

I have seen articles in the past suggesting heavily exposed film as a good filter. X-Ray film said to be goo - a vanishing resource in this digital age. YMMV.
Pinholing a risk, and density not well controlled.

It is highly likely that a suitably sensible person could make a safe and suitable filter from a range of materials.

It is is also likely that some people could end up with eye damage because they were less careful or competent than they needed to be :-(.

There is much useful material available on web.

Hoya NDx 400 500:1 neutral;density filter
Sunspot image example given
Care with eyes!

Baader astrosolar ND material - make your won - excellent as page with information and warnings. They say -

  • ND 5 ( 0.00001 transmission) (1/100,000) for direct visual use, and

  • ND 3.8 (0.00016 transmission) (16/100,000) for photography only.

Instructions on DIY filters using their material

DIY artiocle using their material

Good DIY advice here

Solar eclipse photography links from above:

{1} Solar eclipse photography ...


  • However, unless you're a complete die hard, don't bother. Photos of the sun before totality are considerably less interesting that photos of the moon. The best you'll get are a few sunspots.

    Instead, I recommmend indirect photos, which can include interesting background and human subjects. For example, you can photograph the image of the cresent sun being projected onto a piece of cardboard through a pinhole. You will probably be with a lot of other excited people, with lots of fancier equipment than you. Use them as your subjects. My best before eclipse photos are of a crowd of people surrounding a large telescope, projecting the solar image onto an 8x10 ground glass.


Some excellent suggestion. They also note as below. Note they say

  • A mylar or glass solar filter must be used on the lens at all times for both photography and safe viewing. Such filters are most easily obtained through manufacturers and dealers listed in Sky & Telescope and Astronomy magazines. These filters typically attenuate the Sun's visible and infrared energy by a factor of 100,000. However, the actual filter attenuation and choice of ISO film speed will play critical roles in determining the correct photographic exposure. A low to medium speed film is recommended (ISO 50 to 100) since the Sun gives off abundant light. The easiest method for determining the correct exposure is accomplished by running a calibration test on the uneclipsed Sun. Shoot a roll of film of the mid-day Sun at a fixed aperture [f/8 to f/16] using every shutter speed between 1/1000 and 1/4 second. After the film is developed, the best exposures are noted and may be used to photograph all the partial phases since the Sun's surface brightness remains constant throughout the eclipse.

They also contradict the advice above re photographing at totality :-)

This simple search will give lots of useful material

NB - the following are my personal observations only - treat with due care:

In my personal opinion, the stated necessary degree of attenuation for eye safety is excessive. Full solar flux is about 100,000 lux, so a 100,000:1 filter will reduce the light level to 1 lux which is far lower than necessary for safety. A bright LCD screen is about 300 lux - brighter than you want to stare at for any time (he said, staring deeply into his monitor at close range 'just to see"). 10,000:1 attenuation to give 10 lux seems OK and 1000:1 to give 100 lux is getting somewhat bright.

The results from the Hoya NdX 400 at 500:1 seems to support this.

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Would using Live View be a good advice? This way you don't look into the viewfinder but maybe I oversaw something. – Unapiedra Apr 4 '12 at 11:43
@Unapiedra - live view would protect your eyes - but if you do things properly you can look at the sun through the correct filters without problems. If you need to use live view to ensure safety then you are probably not doing things well enough in the first place. – Russell McMahon Apr 4 '12 at 13:26
Thanks for your detailed answer and information. – L84 Apr 5 '12 at 2:20

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