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Photographing northern lights

7 tips on how to take great northern lights photos

The mystical northern lights, one of the world’s most famous natural phenomena. Many have tried to capture these beautiful lights on camera, but it’s not always as easy as it may seem. Northern lights photographer Peter Rosén in Abisko shares his best tips for getting those good pics.

One of the most important things about northern lights photography is to keep the camera still. If you don’t have a tripod, place your camera on a solid surface or on the ground, point your camera towards the northern lights and take the picture. If you can change the settings on your camera, set the exposure to 5-30 seconds. If you’ve got some photography experience and a camera with manual settings, we’ve made a list of northern lights photographer Peter Rosén’s 7 best tips for taking a perfect northern lights photo.

Taking pictures of the northern lights

Before heading out

1. Make sure your batteries are fully charged, as they drain faster in the cold.

2. Choose a wide-angle lens, and place your camera on a tripod, or another solid surface. A compact camera will work, but a more advanced camera will get you better pictures. Make sure to know how your camera works so you don’t have to look for the settings in the dark.

3. Bring a head torch. The extra light comes in handy when you’re changing the settings and focus. You can also use it to light up a person or an object in the foreground. The camera’s own flash can make the lighting seem unnatural and harsh, and might ruin the feeling you’re trying to capture.


4. Set the ISO to 800 or higher. The newer the camera, the higher the ISO you can use without getting grainy pictures. Set the aperture as low as you can, between f 2.0 and 4.0. A fully open aperture will result in more light reaching the sensor per second, shortening the exposure time.

5. If you’re taking a picture without anything in the foreground, set focus on” infinity” to get a clear photo of the stars. A wide-angle lens lets you focus on both an object 10m away from you as well as the northern lights and stars in the background at the same time.

Take your time to learn how the “infinity” settings work in daylight. Don’t turn the focus ring all the way down, as it’ll make everything in the photo blurred, no matter which lens you use.

6.  Exposure time varies depending on the ISO and aperture settings, and how strong the northern lights are. 

A simple tip is to take a picture and evaluate it, or the histogram in your camera, and adjust the settings accordingly. If the picture feels to dark, you lengthen the exposure time. It can be anywhere from 5 up to 60 seconds.

7. If the weather’s really cold, place the camera in an air-tight bag before bringing it indoors. Otherwise there’s a risk of condensation building up in the camera. Let the camera warm up slowly inside the bag before taking it out of the bag.

Now you’re ready to go when the northern lights appear, and remember, practice makes perfect!

Would you like to learn more about northern lights photography? 

Visit LapplandMedia & Photoadventures northern lights photography courses in Abisko national park and Kiruna.

Taking pictures of the northern lights. Our 7 best tips

Click here to see our full range of northern lights products by Peter Rosén.

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