Before the rush

Before the rush
by evan-pak

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The guy from the photo shop pointed out to me that I need special filters if I want to shoot directly to the sun with long exposures in order to not ruin the sensor.

Is this the same when I shoot lighted candles or lamps or other light sources?

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Theoretically you could damage the sensor by shooting a closeup of a very strong lamp (e.g. 2000 watts) for a long time, but any reasonable shot is harmless. – Guffa Mar 17 '11 at 11:30
See also this question about damage from the sun:… – mattdm Mar 28 '11 at 4:21
up vote 12 down vote accepted

No, you don't need a special filter for candles or most man madelightsources (in fact using a filter to shoot candles would likely result in a ghost reflection image due to the filter).

For shooting the sun a neutral density filter is recommended to cut out most of the sun's light before it enters the lens to prevent damage.

A candle is so many times dimmer than the sun you do t have to worry. Any lightsource you can look at without hurting your eyes will not damage the camera.

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A good rule of thumb is that if it's okay to look at it, it's okay to shoot it. That leaves out arc lamps, arc welders, plasma torches, CO2 lasers and a whole bunch of other nasty things -- unless your camera is wearing the same goggles as you'd have to wear. – user2719 Mar 17 '11 at 12:43
Thanks for the replies and for the great and simple answer. – Ilian Iliev Mar 17 '11 at 12:51
Good answer, but I have not found any ghost reflection images (with filters) in my photos of candles. – labnut Mar 28 '11 at 5:32

Suggesting using ND filters to photograph the sun is a foolhardy suggestion. You need to know if they also filter out the IR part of the spectrum. If you are trying to photograph a partial eclipse or sunspots with a long telephoto lens for example, then you need the same filtering methods that astronomers use. A very popular and exceptional filter material for this purpose is Baadar's AstroSolar Safety-Film filter material. It's rather inexpensive, and a small sheet of it can be used to make many camera filters as well as additional filters for binoculars and small spotting scopes. Failing that, some good quality silverized mylar will suffice. You must inspect it thoroughly though for any signs of pinholes or areas where the silvering might have become damaged. Stack enough layers so that looking at the sun with your naked-eye is quite comfortable, then it will be safe for your camera too. The one drawback is the amount of contrast loss using this method. The AstroSolar film doesn't cause this and produces a sunlight much more closer to daylight. Silverized mylar giving the sun a strong bluish cast.

(One other caution: Do NOT use exposed and developed transparency film for this purpose. It might look black to you, but it also makes a very effective IR filter for doing IR photography, allowing almost the full spectrum of IR light through.)

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Candles are fine. I took some pictures of an electrical arc that did not damage my sensor. I used a very small apeture (f/22 perhaps? it was years ago) to limit the amount of light coming in as much as possible. It was also only a split second spark, it just tripped the breaker instantly each time :P

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