Solar Eclipse Selfies? Baylor Expert Shares Safety Tips for Taking Photos of Aug. 21 Phenomenon

  • Full-Size Image: Monday's so...
    Monday's solar eclipse will draw millions of eyes toward the sun to see the long-awaited phenomenon. (iStock)
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    Keith Schubert, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering in Baylor's School of Engineering and Computer Science
Aug. 16, 2017

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WACO, Texas (Aug. 16, 2017) – Monday’s solar eclipse will draw millions of eyes toward the sun to see the long-awaited phenomenon. And while it’s tempting to capture the sight with your camera or smartphone, a Baylor University engineer and imaging expert says it’s best to play it safe – for the photographer and for the camera.

“Some cameras have viewfinders and some have digital screens. Never, ever, ever look through a viewfinder at the sun,” warned Keith Schubert, Ph.D., professor of electrical and computer engineering in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“Digital single-lens reflex cameras have a mirror that directs most of the light from the lens to the viewfinder; so looking through the viewfinder is akin to looking at the sun through a magnifier,” he said. “On a digital screen it is somewhat safe – you can't be damaged by the screen. But the camera can be damaged and your eye can be damaged if you end up accidentally looking past the shadow caused by the camera and see the sun directly.”

Schubert doesn’t discourage people from trying to capture the solar eclipse with their cameras. In fact, he believes it will be an enjoyable experience for many. He simply wants people to understand the risks and take precautions. And given that Texas is not in the line of totality (a complete eclipse), this makes taking photos somewhat riskier.

“There are special lenses to protect your camera and your eyes, and these should be used,” he said. “Long exposures – or continuous operation – can damage the camera sensor (and even some shutters), which is not designed to take the amount of light and resulting heat of directly photographing the sun particularly when overhead.”

For photographers who plan to shoot on Monday, he offered the following tips to make for a more enjoyable – and productive - experience:

• Practice using any new equipment before trying it on the eclipse, following all safety precautions.

• Don't use digital zoom. It lowers image quality

• A tripod and delayed shutter are very helpful to capture quality images.

• Programmed or remote controls can free you to be able to enjoy the moment.

• Wider angle lenses are safer but give less detail; so if you are really serious consider multiple cameras

• Landscape mode can let you capture the stunning effect of the shadow moving. It is hard to image, but awe inspiring.

• Don’t forget to have fun.


Keith Schubert, Ph.D., is a professor of electrical and computer engineering in Baylor University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. He has been a leader in developing proton computed tomography (pCT) for more than a decade; during that time, he has developed advanced, high-speed reconstruction software and methods. Schubert has worked on numerous medical engineering projects related to proton and ion therapy, from automated patient localization and positioning for proton surgery to MRI gradient nonlinearity correction to improve treatment planning accuracy. He has also been a National Geographic science team leader based on his work in biological modelling of extremophiles with NASA Ames, which made the cover article of the July 2014 issue of National Geographic Magazine.


Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.


With more than 10 percent of Baylor University’s freshman class pursuing major courses of study in the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), the focus remains on preparing graduates for professional practice and responsible leadership with a Christian world view. ECS majors include bioinformatics, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, general engineering, and mechanical engineering. Among ECS graduate programs are Master of Science degrees in all disciplines, a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering, and several dual degree programs. The Teal Residential College for Engineering and Computer Science, in which students and faculty live, fosters the pursuit of wisdom, academic excellence, and meaningful relationships for the development of diverse, innovative leaders.

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