How to Get Instagram-Worthy Photos of the Solar Eclipse Using Your Smartphone

The Diamond Ring effect is shown following totality of the solar eclipse at Palm Cove in Australia's Tropical North Queensland in 2012.
The Diamond Ring effect is shown following totality of the solar eclipse at Palm Cove in Australia's Tropical North Queensland in 2012.AFP - Getty Images file

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By Alyssa Newcomb

You don't need a fancy camera set-up in order to take Instagram-worthy photos of the solar eclipse.

The last time the United States saw a solar eclipse visible from the contiguous 48 states was nearly three decades before the advent of smartphones, on February 26, 1979.

This time around, millions of people in its path, from Oregon to South Carolina, will have the benefit of taking out their smartphones and snapping photos of the rare celestial event. Here are a few best practices and apps for getting the perfect shot that will rack up those Instagram likes.

Clean Your Lens

You'll want to make sure your cover glass is as clean as possible, since pointing your camera directly at the sun could lead to the possibility of flare.

Don't Zoom In

Andrew Symes, an astrophotographer who has worked with Apple, recommends getting a pair of eclipse glasses, placing them in front of your smartphone lens and then taking a photo. After you're done, you can have a high quality photo you can crop. If you zoom in, you'll degrade the quality of the photo, he said. For the lucky people who get to see the moon fully eclipse the sun, Symes said you'll be able to remove the glasses from the lens and snap away.

Take Advantage of Exposure Control

After tapping the screen on your iPhone to set the focus, you'll see a vertical yellow line with a sun. Move the sun up to increase or decrease brightness. One idea: Consider under-exposing your images to make the changes in the sun stand out.

Try Video Mode

If you want to create a cool time lapse video, locking the exposure can ensure you capture the changes in light level as the moon covers the sun.

Related: You Have Questions About the Solar Eclipse. We Have the Answers

Use an App

So you took a photo, but you'll want to make sure it's just right before you share it with friends. There are a number of free photo editing apps that can work their magic. Adobe Lightroom is like Photoshop for your phone, letting you easily make quick fixes to your shots. Polar has advanced auto-enhance tools that make your snaps look magazine-worthy. Priime (yes, that two i's), offers filters styled from some professional photographers, making it easier for your snaps to be edited in no time.

However you choose to enjoy the solar eclipse, don't forget to stay safe. We have more on that here.