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Northern Lights Photography Tips

Make the most out of your Northern Lights trip and use our top tips below for getting the best photographs. On tour your expert astronomer will also run through the best camera settings and choose the best viewing location.

Basic settings for all Digital Cameras

  • Switch off the flash. If it cannot be switched off then put black tape over it.

  • Set the camera speed to ISO 800 or 1600. The darker the sky, the higher the ISO setting should be.

  • White balance: choose the ‘Daylight’ setting.

  • Exposure time/shutter speed (Tv): typically 5-20 sec (possibly not adjustable on all cameras). On a moving ship, or if the Northern Lights are changing rapidly, useshorter exposure times but expect some blurring of your pictures. With ‘fast’ lenses(f/1.4) and high ISO settings (ISO 3200) exposure times may be reduced to 2 sec.

  • Focus the camera manually. Switch off ‘Autofocus’ if you have it.

  • If you have a delayed action timer, set it to 2 sec. It will reduce camera shake.

  • Reduce the brightness of the camera display.

Additional settings for Digital Single Lens Reflex (DSLR) Cameras

  • Recording mode: Manual (M).

  • Aperture: Use the widest aperture possible, i.e. the smallest f/no. – usually f/2, f/2.8 or f/3.5, depending on the lens you have.

  • Lens type: wide-angle, ideally less than 35 mm focal length, preferably 14-24 mm.

  • Remove any UV or polarizing filters.

Tips for getting the best Northern Lights pictures

  • Be well prepared. Make sure that you have plenty of space on your memory card,that you have warm comfortable clothing, and that your camera batteries are fullycharged because cold weather and long exposures quickly sap battery power.

  • Steady your camera, preferably by using a sturdy tripod, or by resting it on a rail.

  • Be considerate to others.  Do not obstruct the view of people around you.

  • Be patient. The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon.  By their very nature they are unpredictable and they may vary in form, brightness and colour quite rapidly.

Do not forget the most important piece of advice

"The Northern Lights are one of Nature’s greatest spectacles. Enjoy them with your eyes and feel them in your heart before using your camera. The mental image you take away with you is far more important than any picture captured by your camera." Dr John Mason, February 2011