Be Prepared: Solar Eclipse Tips for Creators

Vibe Images/Shutterstock Micha Weber/Shutterstock OscarDominguez/Shutterstock tan47/Shutterstock Remix by Caterina Cox

On April 8, people across North America will be briefly captivated by a total solar eclipse. An event that unites so many people is a perfect opportunity for creators to jump in and connect with or even expand their audience. But it requires some preparation, so let’s talk solar eclipse tips for creators.

What is a total solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse takes place when the moon passes between the sun and the earth, briefly obstructing the light and changing how the sky looks to us down on the ground. It’s an infrequent event in any given location, but a total solar eclipse is particularly rare.

As its name suggests, a total solar eclipse occurs when the moon fully blocks out the sun. This, in turn, plunges a portion of the Earth into darkness in the middle of the day. The last event like this visible in the United States happened in 2017—but the one before that was back in 1979. And the next one won’t be until 2044.

When does the eclipse take place?

The total solar eclipse will take place on Monday, April 8, 2024 somewhere between 1:27 pm CT and 3:35 pm ET, depending on what part of the United States you’re in. You can check on the specific time frame by location over at NASA’s website.

Why should content creators care about this eclipse?

The April 8 eclipse is an exciting event not just because of its rarity, but because it will be visible from more locations in North America than the previous one, and it will last longer.

Its accessibility to more people on the continent means folks are paying attention. But it’s still ultimately an event that most people will only be able to follow online, providing a golden opportunity for content creators to jump on an exciting time-sensitive trend in a big way.

Even if you aren’t able to get to one of the prime locations for viewing the eclipse, there are other ways to engage your audience with eclipse content thanks to special events and limited products that are themed for the occasion.

Where can I go to see the solar eclipse?

In the United States, parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont will get the total eclipse. 

What this means is that specific cities along what’s referred to as the path of totality will experience midday darkness from the moon blocking out the sun. But most of the U.S. (even Alaska and Hawaii) will at least get a partial eclipse. In other words, you don’t have to be along the path of totality to experience the occasion. It just depends on what you want to get out of it.

Best Places to Experience Totality

If you live near the areas that will get the total solar eclipse or can easily travel, check the weather a couple of days out before making a choice about where to go. Cloud coverage can definitely impact your experience.

Currently, Texas is considered the frontrunner among states for places to view the eclipse. Cities there will get it first, have some of the longest totality times, and good weather is expected.

Whether you head there or somewhere else, decide whether you want to seek out a busy location with lots of fun events going on or stick to someplace more off the beaten path for a clearer view. And don’t forget to plan for traffic!

Here are some places to consider:

Radar Base, TX: The first place in the U.S. for this eclipse to hit, with the longest expected totality time of 4 minutes and 27 seconds.

Kerrville, TX: Kerrville is just a little further along the path, with a lot more going on in terms of solar eclipse events.

Hot Springs National Park, AR: One of the only two national parks in the path of totality.

Cape Girardeau, MO: Check out the eclipse alongside the Missouri River!

Cleveland, OH: Cleveland has a slew of eclipse events happening to keep residents and visitors entertained.

Burlington, VT: Your eclipse options in that part of the country are limited, but Burlington is getting a little over three minutes of totality.

Houlton, ME: One of the final places in the U.S. to see the eclipse.

Best Places to View the Partial Eclipse

Most of the U.S. will get some sort of eclipse on April 8. The closer an area is to the path of totality, the more the moon will block the sun. 

A partial eclipse isn’t comparable to a total eclipse, but if you can’t travel, it’s still better than nothing. Find yourself any spot with good weather, minimal cloud coverage, and a clear view of the sun, and you’re good to go.

Best Solar Eclipse Events

Total solar eclipse events are happening all over the country. If you plan to be anywhere near the path of totality, definitely scope out what’s going on nearby. 

Here are some particular options that may be of interest to content creators:

Kerrville Eclipse Festival in Kerrville, TX: One of only three places in the U.S. where NASA will be livestreaming the eclipse.

ROC the Eclipse Festival in Rochester, NY: Live entertainment, planetarium shows, and other science-related activities are all on the docket.

Sun, Moon, and You in Dallas, TX: See the eclipse from the Dallas Cotton Bowl Stadium with special guest speakers like Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Total Eclipse Fest in Cleveland, OH: A three-day family-friendly science and arts festival.

Total Eclipse of the Heart Festival in Russellville, AR: An annual music festival that also promises hot air balloon rides.

What equipment do I need for the total solar eclipse?

Regardless of where you plan on experiencing the eclipse, you’ll need some special gear to both view and properly capture photos or videos of the event.

Eclipse Glasses

Looking up at the sun can permanently damage your retinas, so you’ll need specialized eye gear to look directly at the eclipse. If you’re in the path of totality, you won’t need to wear glasses to look up during the 3-4 minutes the sun is fully obscured. But you will need them if you’re looking up before and after, or if you’re in a location with only a partial eclipse.

Counterfeit glasses are all over the place ahead of eclipse events. Read reviews before purchasing, pay attention to who is selling them if you’re buying from a site like Amazon, and consider checking the manufacturer against the American Astronomical Society (AAS) list of recommendations

To test your eclipse glasses ahead of time, NPR suggests shining a flashlight through them. The light should be very dim, or you shouldn’t be able to see it at all.

Binoculars and Telescopes

You don’t need binoculars or a telescope to see the solar eclipse. But if you want a closer look, you still need to make sure your eyes are protected—which means you can’t just use regular gear for this, and you can’t simply look through your telescope or binoculars while wearing eclipse glasses. You need either special equipment with filters, or you need to throw a filter on whatever you already have.

Camera Equipment

To take video or photos of the eclipse (other than when it’s fully dark), you can use any camera—but you’ll need a solar filter for it. Alternatively, you can opt for solar filter sheets to create your own filter. Either way, this is another great time to scope out the AAS list of preferred manufacturers and suppliers to make sure your camera and your eyes stay protected.

If you’re using a camera with an optical viewfinder, don’t forget to bypass that and just prep your shot through the digital viewfinder instead to avoid harming your eyes.

8 Solar Eclipse Tips For Creators

You could absolutely just snap a pic of the total or partial eclipse, put it on Instagram, and call it a day. But for such a momentous occasion, why not maximize your content opportunities?

1. Figure out how to get a great shot of the eclipse.

You may already be well-versed in lighting and composing shots for social media. That understanding will help you, but taking pictures or video of the eclipse does require additional knowledge due to the lighting conditions.

In addition to getting that solar filter for your camera, NASA recommends using a fixed aperture between f/8 and f/16 and shutter speeds between 1/1000 and 1/4 of a second if you’re using a DSLR camera. If you’re going with a smartphone, suggests locking your focus and utilizing burst mode for the best results.

2. Use a tripod!

If there is ever a time to use a tripod, it’s for a total solar eclipse. Shooting in low lighting means you need to use a slower shutter speed. A slower shutter speed means the camera has to stay still for a longer time to capture the shot properly, or you risk adding blur to your image.

A tripod also gives you flexibility in the type of content you can create here, such as making a time-lapse video of the eclipse. And yes, you can get a tripod even if you’re using a smartphone.

3. Practice with your equipment and filters ahead of time.

Since our time with the eclipse is limited, you don’t want to be figuring out your settings or setup from scratch in the moment. Gather whatever equipment you’re planning to use—especially your new solar filters—and practice in low-lighting conditions until you figure out how to consistently get shots you’re happy with.

4. Consider your audience.

Creating content surrounding the eclipse might be a no-brainer if you’re already in a niche related to science or nature. But even if you aren’t, this is a big enough deal that you can probably come up with unique and engaging content that specifically relates to the total solar eclipse while serving your audience.

For instance, tech reviewers might compare equipment options for photographing the eclipse. Travel vloggers might repurpose old content if they’ve ever posted videos from cities along the path of totality. Content creators who focus on food can check out limited-time themed items like Sonic’s Blackout Slush Float. If you treat this as more of a temporary subgenre of content creation than a single event, you might come up with something really special.

5. Take advantage of hashtags.

Of course, this is just always good advice for content creators regarding any trend. But since this one occurs within a limited time frame, be sure to pay close attention to any hashtags gaining traction on your platform of choice and jump in there early.

6. Don’t limit yourself to just the eclipse.

The closer we get to the solar eclipse, the more likely people are to be searching for content related to it—but that doesn’t mean you should wait. Having even a small backlog of solar eclipse-related content that fits your brand, touches on current hashtags and/or trends, and has your existing audience’s engagement can help you stick out and draw the attention of new people.

This might be of particular benefit if you decide to livestream on the day of the eclipse.

7. Consider livestreaming.

There will be no shortage of livestreams of the eclipse from all over North America, including ones from professional organizations. Some folks will opt to watch those, but others are going to want to feel like they’re watching the eclipse with a crowd, with commentary from creators they enjoy watching.

Making it clear to your audience ahead of time that you’re going to post eclipse content and plan to livestream can help remind people to tune into your broadcast the day of. If you intend on livestreaming the actual eclipse, definitely plan ahead. Let viewers know when and where they watch. Have things to talk about to keep folks engaged leading up to the eclipse. And make sure you have whatever equipment you need—including a second camera setup if you also want to take photos.

8. Get the timing right.

On the day of the eclipse, take advantage of everyone seeking out content related to the event on social media by uploading your photos and videos quickly and with the right tags and keywords, to maximize the potential for engagement. 

The total solar eclipse is an experience that brings people together from all over the country—and those who can’t travel or don’t have anyone to experience it with are likely to indulge their FOMO throughout the event. So even though you can save some content for later, don’t be slow to post while things are happening.

But most of all, wherever you’re experiencing this particular eclipse, don’t forget to have a great time and actually experience the rare event. It’s going to be another 20 years before the next one!

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