10 Tips for Northern Lights Photography

Northern Lights photography is an exciting but also challenging discipline. Here are 10 of the most important tips that will help you to create memorable images of this wonderful phenomena.

Nordic landscape and fine art photography by Northlandscapes – Jan Erik Waider

01 – Place the camera on a tripod and ensure the tripod is well secured to forstall the effect of the wind which might want to pull it down.

02 – Set your camera on manual focus and select the manual setting on the menu.

03 – Use the camera’s timer or remote control to set for 2 or 10 second’s release. When you press the release button yourself it will create unsteady images.

04 – Open your lens and select the lowest aperture.

05 – Set the camera in the right composition. Observe the foreground and background, and ensure that it is perfect, and you will have a better photo with the right depth of field and context.

06 – Put on the LiveView function. This enables you to use the screen to focus and not the view finder. Do not bother to use autofocus, because it will not function properly as a result of insufficient contrast. The camera’s contrast is not enough to hold the area of focus.

07 – Set the zoom button at a maximum zoom level if your camera will permit it. Move the zoomed screen to the area of the sky with bright stars.

08 – Let the focus ring on your lens be turned to infinity. It resembles the number eight in a horizontal shape ∞. You will observe the stars becoming little piercing dots. Use miniscule movements to fine-tune it until you get the sharpest focus. The distance of the northern light and stars makes it look like they are on a flat backdrop in connection to the person who is looking at them, irrespective of the fact that they are distant from each other. If the stars are in focus, the northern lights also will be in focus. Consider that the northern lights are always in blurry motion. When you are done, put off the LiveView.

09 – Set the camera on a shutter speed and ISO that you are familiar with, or in accordance to the emission of light gotten from the northern lights. If the light coming in is really strong then set your ISO to 640 and aperture to 5 seconds of exposure when the maximum aperture size of your lens is f/2,8. When the light is dim, adjust the ISO to 1000 and aperture to 8 seconds.

10 – Conduct a test shot, and then adjust the shutter speed and ISO. Let the aperture remain the same. Allow it to be big so that it can accept a great amount of light into the lens every second. When you have more light coming through the lens, then the ISO needs to be low, thereby lowering noise, which can make the picture quality less effective.

Landscape photography of Norway by fine art and commercial photographer Jan Erik Waider
Landscape photography of Norway by fine art photographer Jan Erik Waider
Northern lights over the Lofoten Islands in Norway
Colorful Northern lights over the Lofoten Islands, Norway

Northern lights over the Lofoten islands (Norway) near Svolvær.

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Northlandscapes – Jan Erik Waider | Atmospheric landscape photography of the North: Norway, Iceland, Greenland and beyond

About the Author – Jan Erik Waider

I'm a visual artist and fine art photographer based in Hamburg. My work focuses on atmospheric and abstract landscape photography, capturing the essence of the remote polar regions. – Learn more about me and discover my fine art photo series, prints and books or download my Lightroom Presets or Capture One Styles.

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