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  • Writer's pictureMichael Blachly

Chasing Totality: A Photographer's Guide to Capturing A Total Solar Eclipse

The 2024 total solar eclipse was an incredible opportunity for me as a photographer to capture stunning images of this rare celestial event. However, photographing a solar eclipse requires specialized equipment, careful planning, and the right techniques. In this article, I share my top tips and lessons learned from successfully photographing the 2024 total eclipse, including camera setup, settings, and best practices.


Photographing a Total Solar Eclipse

Camera and Lens Setup for Solar Eclipse Photography

  • Best Camera for Eclipse Photography: I used a Canon R5 mirrorless camera, but any high-resolution, SLR camera will work well. Plan to use the LCD screen swung out to make it easier to view as your camera may be setup at a severe angle.

Setup for Solar Eclipse
  • Best Lens for Eclipse Photography: A telephoto zoom lens is essential. I used a Canon 100-500mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter for an effective 700mm focal length. I recommend a focal length of at least 400mm for eclipse photography.

  • Tripod Setup: A sturdy tripod is crucial to minimize camera shake, especially when using a heavy super telephoto lens. I set mine up around 3.5 feet high for comfortable seated shooting. A geared or gimbal head simplifies precise aiming and the sun is constantly moving and your camera lens will likely be at a severe angle making it difficult to adjust with a normal ball head mount.  I also had a rockbag strapped to my tripod that I used to hold things (and also to load down in the wind picked up).

  • Must-Have Solar Filter: A solar filter specifically designed for photography is absolutely necessary. Do not attempt to stack regular ND filters. The solar filter allows safe viewing of the sun for focusing and prevents damage to your camera's sensor. I did put a lens cloth on top of my camera lens when I wasn’t shooting just to further ensure it wouldn’t get damaged.

  • Other Accessories for Eclipse Photography: I used a remote shutter release to minimize vibration. I taped down the zoom and focus rings to prevent slippage. An umbrella or Hoodman Loupe can shade your camera's LCD screen for improved visibility in sunlight. Don't forget chairs, snacks, solar viewing glasses, blanket and other comfort items.


PREGAME: Planning and Practicing for Eclipse Photography


The Sun
  • Where to Photograph the Solar Eclipse: To capture totality, you must position yourself within the path of the moon's umbra shadow. The closer to the center line, the longer totality will last.

  • Practice and Preparation: Practice with your full equipment setup beforehand. Master your camera settings like exposure, focus, and bracketing. Plan your compositions. And determine the slowest shutter speed you can use before the sun's motion causes blurring (no slower than 1/2 second at 700mm for me).

  • How to Focus When Photographing the Sun: Use live view, zoom in, and carefully focus on sunspots or the edge of the solar disc.

  • Solar Eclipse Photography Apps: The Solar Eclipse Timer app provides a synchronized audio guide to notify you of key times and phenomena throughout the eclipse. It's great for planning and staying on schedule.


GAME DAY: Photographing a Solar Eclipse

Total Solar Eclipse
  • Best Weather for Eclipse Photography: Fingers crossed for blue sky!  Weather will play a big factor in your success.  Ideally a blue-sky day is what you need but you can do it with some haze and clouds as long as the clouds are spotty. 

  • Eclipse Photography Setup: Get set up around 30 minutes before the eclipse begins. Lock in your focus (on the sun spots) and lock your zoom range. Consider taping the focus and zoom rings to prevent accidental adjustments. Ensure your tripod is stabilized and weighted down if it is windy. And don’t forget to make sure you setup in a spot that can capture the entirety of the solar eclipse and that the sun won’t move behind a tree or building.

  • Photographing the Partial Eclipse Phases: Snap a shot every 5 minutes or so as the moon gradually covers the sun. Continuously adjust your framing to keep the sun centered as it moves across the sky.

  • Photographing Totality: The main event is brief but spectacular! A couple minutes before totality, finalize your composition, loosen or remove your solar filter, and quickly adjust exposure settings for the much darker conditions. Shoot non-stop, preferably bracketing exposures to ensure you are not blowing out highlights but also capturing the light flowing into space. Feel free to adjust your exposures to capture different elements of the total eclipse but remember to also take a moment to experience totality with your own eyes

Diamond Ring Solar Eclipse
  • Capturing the Diamond Ring Effect: In the fleeting moments immediately before and after totality, a brilliant "diamond ring" appears as the final/first rays of sunlight shine through valleys on the moon's edge. Stop down your aperture to create an attractive starburst effect.

  • Photographing the Second Partial Phases: After totality ends, replace your solar filter and return to your partial phase exposure settings. Continue shooting every 5 minutes until the eclipse is over.


Sample Exposure Settings for Solar Eclipse Photography:

  • Full Sun: 1/320 sec, f/10, ISO 100

  • Half Sun: 1/320 sec, f/10, ISO 100

  • Thin Crescent: 1/160 sec, f/10, ISO 100

  • Totality / Diamond Ring: 1/4 sec, f/51, ISO 200 (aperture stopped down for starburst effect)


Total Solar Eclipse
POST-GAME: Post-Processing Solar Eclipse Photos


Get creative when editing your eclipse images! The natural color of solar photography is almost black and white. I like to experiment with warming the white balance to around 14,000-15,000K or even cooling it some.

And techniques like exposure blending, compositing, and artistic enhancements can really make your eclipse photos shine.

Total Solar Eclipse Composit

Total Solar Eclipse

Solar Eclipse Photography Safety Warning


Never look directly at the sun without proper solar filtration except during the brief period of totality. Doing so can cause permanent eye damage. Do not view the eclipse through an optical viewfinder - use live view instead.


By applying these solar eclipse photography tips and techniques that I learned from photographing the 2024 eclipse, you'll be ready to capture spectacular images of the next total solar eclipse. May the skies be clear and your photos stunning!

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