People view an annular solar eclipse in 2012 near Phoenix. 

AP

Are you planning to capture the eclipse on camera? Here are a few tips for safely and effectively photographing the sun no matter what your budget or skill level is. 

Protect your eyes 

You've heard it a thousand times in the lead-up to the eclipse, but the warning is worth repeating: Don't look at the sun without eclipse glasses or another type of solar filter. Supervise kids at all times to make sure they're using their glasses correctly.

... and your camera

Focused, direct sunlight can damage a digital camera sensor, and looking at the sun through an optical viewfinder can cause permanent eye damage. Don't point your lens at the sun without a solar filter attached.

There are a variety of professional-grade, screw-on filters designed for this purpose, as well as low-cost cardboard filters that are simply held in front of the lens. The latter are a good option if you plan to take photos with a smartphone. 

You can also purchase a Mylar or black polymer filter sheet and use it to craft a DIY solar protector. 

A piece of No. 14 welder's glass costs only a few dollars and can be used as an improvised filter. However, it will give your photos a greenish color cast. 

Choose your gear

Any old camera (or smartphone) can be used to photograph the eclipse, provided it has a solar filter attached. If you want to capture an up-close shot of the moon passing in front of the sun, you'll need a serious telephoto lens, ideally 400mm or larger. But don't worry -- you can still make great photos with a wide-angle lens, point-and-shoot camera or smartphone.

Choose your location 

Scout out your shooting location in advance. Look for trees, power lines or buildings that could get in the way of the perfect shot, and for any unsightly scenery that might spoil your images. 

Practice

The sun sits up in the sky all day, every day, so don't wait until the eclipse to try photographing it. Experiment ahead of time to figure out the best camera settings to use (don't forget your solar filter and eclipse glasses). Become familiar with any equipment you plan to rent, borrow or buy for the event.

If you want to get technical, you can find information online on calculating the proper shutter speed and f-stop for the various phases of the eclipse. 

Get set

It goes without saying that things will get dark when the sun and moon align. You'll want a tripod, or at least a stable surface, to steady your camera.

Go unfiltered 

There's one exception to the safety rules. If you're in the path of totality, you'll need to remove the solar filter from your camera during the total phase. During the 2 minutes and 40 seconds the sun is completely blocked, it's safe to view with the naked eye and too dim to photograph through a filter. 

Don't forget to replace your filter and eclipse glasses after this brief phase. 

Enjoy the moment

Unless you're a dedicated astronomy buff, this could be the only total eclipse you witness in your lifetime. Don't let all your memories of the day involve fumbling with camera gear or checking your Instagram notifications. 

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Follow digital editor Alan Rogers on Twitter @alanmrogers