Make or Buy Your Own Inexpensive “White Light” Solar Filter to Watch and Photograph the Eclipse

White Light solar filters for photography, binoculars, and non-magnified viewing.

If you order soon (stocks are running low), you can make or buy your own inexpensive, “white light” solar filter for safely photographing (and viewing) the sun and the upcoming solar eclipse August 21. “White light” filters (unlike others) allow you to see and photograph the sun in a natural yellow-amber color.

Update, August 6, 2017: Many of these items are no longer available. Check the most recent articles in this series to see what is still available.

As of several weeks ago you could no longer order a fancy, white light, screw in, solar eclipse filter. If you are still kicking yourself for missing that opportunity, stop it now and grab an inexpensive solar eclipse filter. It isn’t the fanciest, fastest, or most elegant option, but it will get the job done.

White Light 90mm Solar Filter in a cardboard mount.

One option is to buy an inexpensive ($25), ready made 90mm solar filter in a cardboard mount. You fold up the cardboard mount so you can slide it over the front of a camera lens (or just look through it for viewing). As long as your lens isn’t wider than 90mm in diameter you will be in good shape. It will also fit the front of telescopes that are smaller than 90mm in diameter. This filter is ISO 12312-2 certified. The actual filter material is SolarLite film from Thousand Oaks Optical.

This is a friction fit filter and the narrower your lens, the less friction there will be. This creates an inherent danger. Most people will use this filter with a telephoto lens to make the sun look bigger. If you are looking through your camera at the sun and the filter falls or blows off the lens, you could be blinded. At the very least you should tape the filter to your lens. Gaffer’s tape is the photographers preferred choice. Sticky but no residue. If the gap between the filter housing and the lens is fairly wide, you may want to tape some cotton around the inside of the filer housing for a tighter fit. Even at that you should still tape the filter to your lens.

You can close one eye and use this filter over the other eye for safe viewing of the sun.

Binocular filters, 50-69mm outside diameter.

You can also buy a pair of these filters (outside diameter 50-69mm) to put over binocular lenses. You should tape these in place when you are using them. If the outside diameter of your camera lens is 69mm or less, it would make more sense to buy a pair of these filters for $25 than the 90mm lens/telescope filter above.

You can hold one of these over each eye for safe, un-magnified viewing of the sun.

These cardboard mounted solar filters from Thousand Oaks Optical are another safe viewing option. The Thousand Oaks Optical web site it out and I have not been a ble to find another approved vendor that has these in stock.

Square white light solar filter sheets from Thousand Oaks Optical.

Another option is to make your own filter. You can get white light solar filter sheets from Thousand Oaks Optical. Update, August 6, these are no longer in stock.

The shape of the cardboard filter housing before folding it up and sliding it over a lens.

Just cut a circle out of the solar filter sheet a little larger than the front of your lens. Then mount it in a piece of thin cardboard that you can fold up into a filter housing that will slide over the outside of your lens. You can use the shape of this unfolded cardboard mounted solar filter to give you an idea how to construct your own filter housing. Make sure there are no gaps between the edges of the filter where it meets the cardboard filter housing. When you use your do-it-yourself filter, tape it to your lens so it doesn’t fall off.

Diagram for cutting an 8×8 filter sheet into individual solar filter viewers.

For the dedicated do-it-yourselfer, you can cut an 8×8 inch sheet into five pieces about 2×6 inches in size (four horizontally across the sheet and one at the vertical edge. With about 1/2 inch of overlap, you can tape some cardboard all around the outside edges to provide something to hold on to without touching the filter material. Your viewing surface will be 1×5 inches. In comparison, commercial solar glasses can be bought in sets of four for $10 which is quite inexpensive.

The Great American Eclipse Series

The Great American Eclipse Series   –  All of my eclipse articles are listed at this link. Check back for new articles as they appear.

More Links

Friction fit 90mm white light solar filter in a cardboard mount

Friction fit 50-69mm white light binocular filters

Don’t Wait Too Long to Get Your Eclipse Glasses or Binoculars!

Order eclipse glasses, goggles and binoculars at my Amazon powered photography store

The solar eclipse page at my Amazon powered photography store