Capturing the Elusive Aurora: Photographing the Northern Lights

UncategorizedBy Jul 11, 2023

Photographing the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, can be a challenging but rewarding experience. To capture these mesmerizing lights, it is essential to have the right gear, including a DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual mode, a wide-angle lens with a fast aperture, a sturdy tripod, and a remote shutter release. Finding the perfect location away from city lights and with interesting elements like mountains or lakes is crucial. Camera settings should be set to manual mode, with a wide aperture, high ISO, and focus set to infinity. Additional tips include bringing extra batteries, dressing warmly, and experimenting with compositions. The Northern Lights are most commonly seen in polar regions during the winter months. Prior photography experience is not necessary, but smartphone cameras may not yield optimal results. It is important to be aware of safety precautions when photographing in remote areas.

Capturing the Elusive Aurora: Photographing the Northern Lights

Capturing the Elusive Aurora: Photographing the Northern Lights


The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, are one of nature’s most mesmerizing and breathtaking phenomena. The dancing lights in the sky can be a photographer’s dream, but capturing the beauty and magic of the Northern Lights can be quite challenging. In this article, we will explore some tips and techniques to help you capture the elusive Aurora through photography.

Choosing the Right Gear

When it comes to photographing the Northern Lights, having the right gear is crucial. Here are some essentials:

  • A DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual mode
  • A wide-angle lens with a fast aperture (f/2.8 or wider)
  • A sturdy tripod to keep your camera stable during long exposures
  • A remote shutter release or intervalometer to minimize camera shake

Finding the Perfect Location

The location plays a vital role in capturing stunning Aurora shots. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Look for areas with minimal light pollution, away from city lights
  • Research the best regions and timing for the Northern Lights
  • Choose a landscape with interesting elements to enhance your composition, such as mountains, lakes, or forests
  • Check weather conditions and aim for clear skies

Camera Settings

Mastering the camera settings is essential for capturing the Northern Lights effectively. Here are some recommended settings:

  • Set your camera to manual mode to have full control over settings
  • Use a wide aperture (f/2.8 or wider) to gather as much light as possible
  • Start with an ISO of 800-1600 and adjust accordingly depending on the brightness of the lights
  • Set your focus to manual and infinity (∞) to ensure the Aurora remains in focus
  • Use a long exposure, typically 10-30 seconds, to capture the movement and colors of the lights

Tips for Shooting

Here are some additional tips to help you capture stunning Northern Lights shots:

  • Bring extra batteries and keep them warm, as cold temperatures drain battery life quickly
  • Dress warmly and bring hand warmers to ensure your comfort during long exposure shots
  • Experiment with different compositions and angles to add variety to your shots
  • Consider including a foreground element to provide a sense of scale and depth


1. When and where can I see the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are visible in polar regions such as Iceland, Norway, Canada, and Alaska during the winter months (September to March) when nights are long and dark.

2. Do I need prior photography experience to capture the Aurora?

While having basic photography knowledge can be beneficial, anyone with a camera and a passion for capturing the Aurora can learn and improve their skills with practice.

3. Can I capture the Northern Lights with a smartphone?

Smartphones can capture the Northern Lights to some extent, but for optimal results, it is recommended to use a DSLR or mirrorless camera with manual settings.

4. What is the best time of day to photograph the Northern Lights?

The Northern Lights are most commonly seen and photographed in the evening and early hours of the night. However, they can appear at any time.

5. Are there any safety precautions to keep in mind when photographing the Northern Lights?

When venturing into remote areas to photograph the Northern Lights, it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings, dress appropriately, and inform someone about your location and estimated return time to ensure your safety.