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Q&A: Can I Shoot Into the Sun?

I've seen some impressive photos with the sun in the background, but I've been hesitant to try any for fear of damaging my digital camera. Is there a special lens that minimizes the effect of direct exposure to the sun or is it safe to shoot away?

--Chad Welch, Bountiful, Utah

Good question, Chad. In the early days of digital photography, there was a concern that exposing the CCD sensor to direct sunlight could damage the chip and render the camera inoperable. Those fears were unfounded, though the warnings persist. Don't worry about it--you can safely shoot pictures with the sun in the frame without fear of damaging the camera.

But if you're looking for a filter that can reduce the effect of the sun, ask your local camera shop for a neutral density filter. Using an adapter or even a bit of tape, you can affix a ND filter to the front of the lens to cut down the amount of light reaching the camera by half or more. It's a handy tool for taking pictures in bright sunlight or in very reflective situations like sand or snow, where there's so much light that the camera has trouble making a good exposure.

One big caveat: Don't ever look directly into the sun, even if it's through the camera's viewfinder. What your mom warned you about is true: Even a brief exposure to direct sunlight can result in permanent eye damage.

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