If you want to take pictures of a solar eclipse, you have two chances coming soon. On October 14, 2023, an annular solar eclipse (i.e., one where the edge of the sun remains visible) will be visible on the western part of the continent, and on April 8, 2024, you can catch a total eclipse toward the eastern part of America.
But keep in mind: An eclipse is among the most challenging things to photograph, and even the best iPhone photo of one is not going to rival a pro photographer’s effort. Still, an amateur with a iPhone can take pretty good snaps of the eclipse with the right preparation.
A solar eclipse will not damage your iPhone (but can damage your eyes)
I’m sure you already know that looking directly at a solar eclipse can damage your eyesight permanently, and maybe you’ve heard that the intense light can damage camera sensors too. That can be true for some cameras, but your iPhone should be fine, or so Apple says.
That said, if you’re trying to take a nice picture of the sun being swallowed by the moon’s shadow, pulling out an iPhone with a naked lens is not your best option. For best results, you have to prepare a bit.
Get a pair of eclipse-viewing glasses for yourself and your phone
Not having one won’t damage your phone, but a solar filter will result in better images of an eclipse. You don’t need to buy expensive equipment: Disposable glasses that provide protection for your eyes during a solar eclipse work on your phone’s lens too, and they are inexpensive enough that buying an extra pair (so you can tape the filter to your lens) is a trivial cost. This will eliminate the glare that can ruin any picture of the sun.
Get a tripod
The steadiness of a tripod is especially important if you are taking video of the celestial event, but even if you’re going for stills, a tripod will help prevent the blurriness of a handheld shot.
To get a perfect shot, practice beforehand
A total solar eclipse is a rare, maybe once-in-a-lifetime event, but that doesn’t mean you can’t practice for it. The un-eclipsed sun is the same brightness as the edges of the sun that will appear during an eclipse, so you can use that to play around with your filter and the exposure and focus settings on your phone to your heart’s content.
Don’t rely on your iPhone’s automatic settings. You want to go full manual here, and keep in mind that the light will be changing gradually from full sunlight to full dark, so be ready to ride the exposure controls.
You can also figure out exactly where the sun will be in the sky during the eclipse on NASA’s website, so you can plan out composition for your photos.
Snap your eclipse pictures with your Apple Watch
So you’ve set everything up beforehand. You have your filter on your lens, and your phone on the tripod, and you know exactly when you’re going to take that perfect shot. Put the cherry on top of the experience by using your watch’s camera control to snap the shot, or try out your iPhone’s timer setting. That way you can experience the eclipse with your (shielded) eyes, instead of looking at it through your phone.
Take pictures around you as well
Part of the coolness of eclipses is the changing nature of the light as the big moment approaches. Take pictures of the people you’re watching the eclipse with. Take a selfie with the eclipse in the background instead. Take some shots of the wonder on your child’s face in the strange twilight as they watch the sun disappear. Or pose your pals looking like the cast of Reservoir Dogs with paper eclipse glasses.