Ask the VR Photography Experts

Q: If you point a camera at the sun, does it mess up the camera?

A: It depends on the camera and the situation, but as a rule of thumb, it's usually better not to -- at least toward a bright mid-day sun.

Many photographers take exquisite pictures of sunrises and sunsets, and these do virtually no harm to the camera since the light is far less bright than mid-day sun. Others use extremely dark filters (such as those found in welding goggles) to photograph the sun during solar eclipses.

However, the biggest reason to be careful when pointing a camera toward the sun is because the lens of the camera can actually act like a magnifying glass and focus the rays of the sun into a very small area on the shutter of the camera. If left in place long enough, this can burn a hole in the shutter or aperture mechanism of the lens itself. Remember doing this as a kid when you took a magnifying glass outside and burned holes in a leaf by focusing the sun on it? You're using the same principle when pointing a camera lens at a bright mid-day sun.

It's actually OK to point your camera toward the sun when you're taking a picture (this means you're using the sun as a back light in your pictures, which can yield quite dramatic results). Just don't keep it in the same position for a long period of time.

Also, with digital or video cameras that use electronic sensors, the direct sun can sometimes cause "blooming" problems where the sensor is overloaded and it won't record properly afterward. In newer cameras, this is only temporary. However, in some older cameras, it can cause permanent damage.

- Scott Highton