How to Photograph the Northern Lights

By: Jamie Carter | Pulished on 2023-12-27

Being creative

How to Photograph the Northern Lights-Trip Advise

The usual “rule of thirds” guide applies, but be creative. After a few years of cool but unrealistic time-lapses, a few years ago top-end cameras finally got sensitive enough for real-time Northern Lights videos, some shot with drones. Cue an overloaded internet.


Somehow, Northern Lights selfies haven't really yet taken off, but all you need is a shutter-delay of about 10 seconds (enough time for you to race into the shot). Instagram is waiting.

Setting-up the camera

How to Photograph the Northern Lights-Trip Advise

With the white balance on automatic, the focus manually fixed at infinity (if the lens slips, tape it down) and the ISO set to between 800 and 1600 (or even higher if there's no moon), try exposure times of between four and 25 seconds.


What works best depends on how fast the display is moving. A remote shutter is very useful here, though you can use a shutter delay of a couple of seconds, just to avoid camera shake. The shorter the exposure, the more defined, yet less bright the image will be, which is ideal if there's a really strong display of dramatic curtains and unexpected crazy streaks above you.


If it's a really weak display, a 30 second exposure will get you a green sky, which can look great if the shot nicely composed. If you have a compact camera, try 'night mode', but you will still need a tripod.

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