Northern Lights Photography: Simple Steps

Whilst it is fascinating to see the Northern Lights, it can also be very enjoyable to photograph the Aurora, and quickly becomes addictive. 

If you are used to shooting with your camera set in Automatic mode, it is a good idea to get familiar with your camera settings, prior to your Northern Lights trip. This could be crucial in helping you capture some of the best moments, as you will have to change your settings throughout the evening.

To capture the Northern Lights, your camera needs to be set in manual mode, which will allow you to adjust the shutter speed, aperture, and ISO independently.

Your aperture, should be set to the lowest number that retains sharpness. Your shutter speed, and ISO compensate one another, and should be adjusted simultaneously, depending on the Northern Lights activity.

Often the Northern Lights appear much brighter on our camera screens than to the naked eye, due to long exposures. If the Northern Lights are faint, shooting with a long shutter speed, and low iso would be preferred. I.e. up to 20 sec. / iso 400-800. When the Northern Lights are strong and fast moving, shooting with a shorter shutter speed, and a higher iso would be better. I.e. up to 10 sec. / iso 1600-3200. 

It is not as difficult as it may sound, the harder part may be to find your focus infinity point. Make sure to know how to manually focus, as at night it can be a little tricky. It´s often overlooked and may not be noticed, until you get home to find your pictures are blurry. 

In cold conditions your camera battery can drain a lot quicker. Be sure to have a fully charged battery, and even bringing spare batteries is not a bad idea. Another thing to consider would be to wear a liner under your gloves, as it can be difficult to access your camera settings with thicker gloves.

For best results, a modern full frame, or crop sensor camera is preferred, and a tripod is essential. We provide high quality tripods on our "journey in search of the Northern Lights", and we will also help you perfect your camera skills.

Jeff Kelmer