UK Markets close in 1 hr 53 mins

How to take pictures of the solar eclipse with your smartphone

Telegraph Reporters
Take a great picture of the eclipse - Reuters

Asolar eclipse can make for a stunning photograph and at this year's great eclipse, among the hundreds of professional photographers vying for the best shots, there will be thousands of onlookers trying to get a picture with their smartphone.

The Great American Eclipse will take place today, but there will be people all over the world trying to take the perfect picture of the solar event.

Although we won't see a perfect alignment in the UK, we will be able to see a partial eclipse (where the Moon covers only a part of the Sun). If you want to try and get a picture of this or future eclipses, here are some tips to get the best results.

How to photograph the solar eclipse

Getting a great shot of a solar eclipse is something expert photographers can take years to master, travelling the world to secure the best images. 

Top photographers will use powerful cameras fitted to telescopes to get the best shots, attaching sun filters so as not to ruin their camera (or their eyes) when preparing the shot.

But if, like many people, you plan to grab a picture of the eclipse using your smartphone there are some simple ways to improve the results.

When observing the eclipse always wear protective glasses Credit: Reuters

Choose your smartphone camera

We don't suggest you buy a new smartphone just to photograph the eclipse, but some models will be particularly suited to taking a great picture of the eclipse.

Apple's iPhone 7 has one of the best smartphone cameras out this year, while the Google Pixel was marketed as having one of the best smartphone cameras available on Android. Other great phone cameras include those on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the OnePlus 5.

The cameras on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus Credit: Telegraph

Find the best place to view the eclipse

Sadly Brits won't get a total eclipse, unlike our friends in the US, but we will be treated to a partial eclipse, which will still be worth watching.  You will be able to photograph it in the UK, but make sure to always wear protective glasses as the Sun's light will never totally be covered by the Moon.

The partial eclipse will be visible in parts of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland from around 19:35 on August 21. For the best photos, make sure you're in a spot where there's no cloud and away from bright lights in the city.

Prepare your phone and choose your settings

You should practice taking pictures of the moon first to get the right distance before taking these steps to get the perfect shot, according to the Nasa space agency.

  1. Turn off flash and autofocus: Your phone will automatically try and focus on when you point it at the eclipse, which will ruin your shot as it tries to compensate for the light. Turn off autofocus and always turn off flash or you will ruin your shot, your dark vision and the viewing experience of others.
  2. Reduce exposure: On your Android smartphone or iPhone there are ways to reduce exposure to control the amount of light reaching the lens. You will want to slide the exposure down to improve the quality of pictures when focusing on the bright light around the sun.
  3. Attach a filter: This is important as it can stop your camera getting damaged. A filter will be needed if pointing the lens at the sun for a long period of time. This can be done by simple holding a pair of eclipse eyeglasses across the camera. "The best thing to do is to cover the camera lens with a solar filter during the moments before (and after) totality when the sunlight is still blinding," Nasa advises. "This will eliminate sun blooming and give you a clear image of the solar disk."
  4. Attach a lens: Rather than the relatively small amount of zoom you can achieve with a normal smartphone camera, using a lens will give you 12x to 18x the level of zoom you would normally expect. "At this magnification, the total solar eclipse will also look much nicer because you will be able to start to see details in the shape of the corona," Nasa says.
  5. Use a tripod: You can pick up a small but sturdy tripod for a little over £15 online. These can be attached to your smartphone and then placed on the ground or on a stable surface, while a timer can be set to take the photos.
What creates a total solar eclipse

How to reduce exposure on iPhone and Android

Reducing exposure - limiting the amount of light that can come into your smartphone camera - is important to clear away all the excess light that will ruin the quality of your eclipse picture. 

On an iPhone, tap the screen on the camera app. You will then see a small sun icon appear next to the area of focus, which can be dragged up or down to increase or decrease exposure.

The same trick works on Android, although some phones have a "Pro Mode" where you can find the EV (exposure value) to manually change exposure.

Use a smart photo app

There are some great photography apps that can help you take an even better picture of the solar eclipse, if you are looking for something a little more advanced from your smartphone.

You will also want to try and capture images in RAW, which will give you more detail than a normal Jpeg image. This can be done on some smartphones, others may require a specialist app, such as Manual or Snap Camera, to capture these more detailed pictures.

The Manual camera app can provide better quality shots Credit: Manual

Use a tripod and a lens

To get a truly accurate shot of the eclipse, or for general night photography with your smartphone, it is worth investing in a tripod and a lens. The lens will offer superior zoom for your shot, while the tripod will help stablise the camera and reduce "noise" - or distortion - in your pictures.

Joby GorillaPod

One of the lightest and most versatile camera tripods around, the GorillaPod is perfect for angling your camera. The legs are easily manipulated and lock into place automatically. It can even use its long legs to wrap around poles or posts to provide different viewing angles.

Price: £18.99 from Amazon

Credit: Joby

MPow Lens

MPow's lens set is extremely simple to use for most normal smartphones. Simply clip the lens over the smartphone and you can add up to 20x zoom on your photos. This lens can be fitted to most smartphones.

Price: £19.99 on Amazon

Credit: MPow

OlloClip Lens

This lens for iPhones clips over the top of your phone and can be used on the dual camera iPhone 7 Plus. It can provide up to 15x zoom to provide a unique look at the eclipse.

Price: £89.95 from Apple

Credit: OlloClip

Don't forget your viewing glasses

These are the safest way of viewing the eclipse directly, other than through a telescope fitted with a professional filter. Eclipse viewers are made from card and inlaid with a special material that cuts the Sun's light down 100,000 times. Make sure to check for holes or scratches as it is only safe if undamaged.

Above all, don't waste too much time trying to score the perfect social media photo. If you are lucky enough to see the full eclipse, make sure you get a good look before trying to grab an Instagram picture.

Total solar eclipse 2017: explainer

 The Telegraph makes a small amount of money by adding affiliate links to products mentioned in this article, however all products are picked independently by our journalists.