Do you want to photograph a solar eclipse with your smartphone? Try these features and think about creative angles

Je hebt geen mooie professionele camera nodig om foto's te maken van de zonsverduistering van dit jaar.  <a href=George Frey via Getty Images News” src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYzOQ–/ 00433536ca269cee62″ data src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTYzOQ–/ 0433536ca269cee62″/>

As the moon casts its shadow over the Earth during the upcoming solar eclipse, cameras of all kinds will turn skyward. While professional photographers strive to capture the perfect photo with specialized equipment, others will turn to their smartphones to immortalize the moment.

Although smartphone cameras themselves can’t take a great photo of a solar eclipse, you can still take a memorable shot of the moment with your smartphone.

Your smartphone’s camera has capabilities that many specialized equipment can’t match. It is lightweight, has built-in orientation detection and can take photos well in the dark and in light. In addition, thanks to its computational photography functions, it focuses the image for you and provides image stabilization.

Be careful: photographing the eclipse with a smartphone may damage the camera’s sensor and your eyes. If you want to look at the sun or take a photo, wear eclipse glasses and buy a lens filter.

Smartphones and optical cameras both bring unique strengths to photography. Smartphones excel in convenience, connectivity and computational photography. They are an easy choice for casual shooters and social media enthusiasts.

Optical cameras beat smartphones in terms of raw image quality, versatility and creative control. This is thanks to their larger sensors, which capture more light and detail, and their interchangeable lenses. They remain the ultimate tools for serious photographers who value performance over portability.

Despite the advantages of optical cameras, the strengths of a smartphone still make it a great way to capture the solar eclipse.

What is computational photography?

I teach a year-long course in computational photography, which covers the technical aspects of optics and photography. Students make cameras and lenses and write software that duplicates smartphone functions.

Computational photography uses calculations along with data such as location, time of day, personal preferences and other data to enhance images. Most smartphones have these features, but very few cameras do.

Two computer modes you’ll want to try are HDR and night mode.

HDR and night mode

HDR, or high dynamic range, is a technique that combines multiple exposures of the same scene to capture a wider range of brightness levels, from deep shadows to bright highlights. By blending these exposures together, HDR can help you create images with more balanced exposure and greater detail.

You can activate the HDR mode of your phone camera in the settings.

Night mode is another feature you can use to improve the photos you take in low light. Using a computational photography technique called stacking, night mode captures multiple images at different exposure levels and combines them to create a single, well-lit photo with a wide dynamic range.

This process preserves an image’s highlights and surrounding details, while leaving the shadows dark.

Keep the camera steady while taking photos in night mode. You can lean against something sturdy, such as a wall or a tree. This computing function allows your low-light images to rival professional optical cameras.

Framing the eclipse

Thinking about how you compose your eclipse image can make it more visually interesting. Composition in photography refers to the arrangement of elements within the frame.

Elements are things like the subject – a person, place or thing – plus abstractions like patterns and textures – grass, sand, leaves and more. Elements with lines or elements that are oriented up or down can guide the viewer’s eye through the image, and elements can move the focus to or shift the subject.

Empty or negative space around the subject can give the photo a compelling composition, like the full moon in a black sky. By adjusting the depth of field, for example using your phone’s portrait mode, you can emphasize the subject.

The use of symmetry creates a visually appealing and balanced image, while the use of complementary colors gives the shot a more dramatic composition.

Think about how a big budget movie could cover the solar eclipse. It can contain 60 seconds of footage showing the moon covering the sun. The remaining 89 minutes would likely show how the eclipse changed people’s lives. There is much more to photograph than just the corona of the sun.

For example, more can be used in an eclipse image than just the sky. Animals may respond to the eclipse in interesting ways. Birds may settle or become silent, and nocturnal insects may come out. People around you may have excited, emotional reactions worth capturing as they witness this rare celestial event.

With HDR and night mode active, look for dappled highlights and dark shadows. The light will take on an alien atmosphere as the moon moves in front of the sun. The light may take on a special, silvery quality and appear darker than normal. Light passing through the gaps between the leaves will project hundreds of tiny versions of the eclipse onto the ground.

Never look directly at the sun. Wear eclipse glasses when looking up while pointing your camera.

While your smartphone may not capture the intricate details of the eclipse itself, it can help you document the eclipse’s impact on your world. So, as you prepare to witness this unique event, don’t forget to look beyond the sun and moon. Observe the shadows, the colors and the emotions that surround you. Let your curiosity guide you and allow yourself to be present in the moment.

The best photos are the ones that evoke a sense of wonder, awe, and connection, regardless of the technology used.

This article is republished from The Conversation, an independent nonprofit organization providing facts and analysis to help you understand our complex world.

It was written by: Douglas Goodwin, Scripps College.

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Douglas Goodwin receives funding from Scripps College and the Fletcher Jones Foundation to teach classes on computational photography and machine learning.

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