Tips for taking photos of the northern lights


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With the right gear and a few tips, you can also take great photos of the northern lights. Here's how to nail yours without breaking the bank


Recommended kit

Before you shoot

In the days before you travel, check the northern lights activity. You want the KP Index, which ranges from 0-9, to be the high. There are many free apps you can download for your smartphone or android.

On the day, focus your camera on a point in infinity and switch the focus setting to ‘manual’ to stop your camera hunting for a point to focus on.

Try using a small piece of tape or a non-permanent marker to mark the focus point on your lens, in case you knock it.

Get ready by wrapping up warm with plenty of thermals! Think about wearing a liner under your mittens so that you can change the settings of your camera without feeling the cold. If you want to invest in something more serious try some gloves that allow your fingers to be free to move the controls

Always take a fully-charged battery or carry a spare in a warm place, the cold temperatures will drain battery life.

Setting Up

When on location, set your camera on its tripod, use the hook to hang a weight to make it more stable. The infrared head torch will preserve your night vision and help you compose your shots in the dark. Use a remote control trigger to get sharper photos by removing the threat of camera shake from movement.

Take a few trial shots, experiment with exposure; think about how fast the lights are moving. A shorter exposure will capture fast moving lights but long exposures can be creative and provide better image quality when you use the tripod.

Try and aim to open your aperture at f/2.8. ISO should be between 400 and 1600 to let more light in during the dark conditions, anything above this and the images will be too grainy.

First Attempts

Start off with a long shutter speed of around 20-30 seconds, try not to touch the camera during the exposure and use the remote if you have one.

Try to use the surrounding landscape in your composition to make your shots more interesting. Elements such as trees, lakes and cabins will add a story to your image.

Finally, do not focus too much on getting the perfect photo. You may be the best photographer in the world but sometimes all it takes is being in the right place at the right moment. Take time to enjoy the scenes around you as well!