How To Photograph Northern Lights

I’m going to lay out the groundwork for any beginner eager to capture the mesmerizing dance of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. The experience is truly magical, but photographing the phenomenon can be a bit tricky if you’re not prepared.

Before we jump in, it’s crucial to understand what the Northern Lights are. They’re the result of solar particles colliding with atmospheric gases, creating a brilliant display of light in the sky. Typically seen in high-latitude regions, these lights are not just a visual spectacle but also a scientific wonder.

You’ll need the right gear to photograph the Northern Lights. A camera with manual mode capabilities, a wide-angle lens for epic sky shots, and a sturdy tripod are non-negotiable. You won’t regret spending time choosing the right equipment; it can make or break your aurora photography experience.

Finding a dark location away from light pollution is your next step. Seek out a place with unobstructed views of the northern horizon, and if you can, position yourself near reflective surfaces like lakes or fjords that can add a magical dimension to your photos with their mirror-like qualities.

Timing is also a key factor. The Auroras are known for their unpredictable nature, but late fall to early spring usually provides better chances to witness this natural light show, especially during peak solar activity.

Let’s get technical for a moment. To capture the Northern Lights, your skills in long exposure photography will be put to the test. We’re talking about shutter speeds of several seconds to minutes, ISO settings that control the camera’s sensitivity to light, and apertures wide enough to let in as much light as possible.

Beyond the Basics: Advanced Tips for Captivating Aurora Photography

You’ve got the basics down, you’re all set with the right gear, and you’ve practiced shooting in the dark; now you’re ready to take your Northern Lights photography to the next level. To capture truly breathtaking images of this natural phenomenon, you’ll need some advanced strategies under your belt. I’m here to help you with that.

When it comes to forecasting the lights, several apps and online tools can be your best friends. Real-time aurora forecasts, solar wind data, and geomagnetic activity reports can pinpoint the best times for aurora photography with remarkable accuracy. Choose something that resonates with you and aligns with your tech comfort level. My Aurora Forecast App is great. You can set it up to send you notifications if there will be a strong Aurora storm visible in your area.

There’s a lot of opportunity in enhancing your compositions. Muse on integrating foreground elements such as trees, mountains, or even buildings that add depth and a sense of scale to your images. A silhouette of a lone tree or the reflection of the auroras in a tranquil lake can turn a good photo into a great one.

Mastering long exposures is another turning point. Striking a balance between ISO settings, aperture, and shutter speed is crucial. It’s your dance floor where you choreograph the light. Remember, your first attempt doesn’t need to be your last. The auroras are unpredictable, so you can always adjust your approach down the road.

You can use your newer cell phone cameras in night mode, to capture the northern lights. A note on this is that you will need to have your phone on a tripod or some stable surface and you will be amazed at what you will be able to capture.

Now, if you’re in the Arctic chill, fighting off the cold is more than just personal comfort; it’s about protecting your gear too. Batteries drain faster, and frost can form on your equipment. Keep spare batteries warm and close to your body and use insulated covers for your camera if necessary. Remember your camera lens will stay clear going from warm to cold so it is best to leave it outside if you need to come into a warm place to warm up. Just remember once your done shooting for the night and come in with your gear that you wipe it down as the condensation begins. Leave your lens on the camera.

Lastly, post-processing isn’t cheating; it’s part of the art. Your raw images will contain all the data needed to bring out the brilliance of the lights. Adjust the contrast, tweak the colors, and play with the exposure to transform your shots from what’s caught in-camera to the marvel you’ve witnessed with your own eyes. All your doing is enhancing the colors hidden from they eye.

And, for a dash of wisdom, reach out to the aurora photography community. Seasoned photographers are usually more than willing to share stories and advice. Their insights can provide shortcuts to your learning curve and inspire you for your next photographic adventure.

To wrap up, going beyond the basics in Northern Lights photography is a journey of continuous learning and adaptation. Whether it’s deciphering the science behind the auroras, braving freezing temperatures, or finessing your images in post-production, each step takes you closer to capturing the majesty of the night sky. I really hope that your Northern Lights images light up the world with their spectral beauty.

Have you wanted to sell your photography?

Photo sites that help you sell

We get a lot of images when we go out to photograph. We have friends giving us complements and then someone says that “how about selling your images”

So now where do we start.

Well I have been very happy with a company called SmugMug. I set up a basic photo gallery, uploaded my images, added keywords to help with searches and thats it.

There are a variety of page designs to choose from and it gives your images a wonderful place for people to see them and if they really would like to get a copy of their vary own there is a simple order system for them to go through.

Your prospective purchasers of your photos just click through to order anything from basic prints, to canvas and they can also order mugs and a variety of other products.

So take a look at Smugmug, you can try it out for a free trial period and decide if it is for you.

Get your self out there, create some amazing images, and post them for sale and earn some extra monies to fund your hobbie.

Another site that I just found and am pretty excited about is Pictorem they have great quality products and they also do drop shipping. Very happy with their quality. Check them out.

Share your amazing photographic creations.

List photography terms

When you get to know your camera and begin to delve deeper into your camera’s manual, there will be some terms that come up that leave you curious to their meanings and sometimes what part of the camera they are referring to.  Below I will give you some of the more common and much used terms you will come across as you learn more about your camera and digital photography.


Refers to the steps or turns of the aperture eg. F4, F8, F11, F16, F22

The smaller the number the larger the opening and the larger the number the smaller the opening on the lens to receive light.

Also the smaller the number the greater depth of field and the reverse as the larger the number the greater the depth of field.

Depth of field (DOF)

Depth of field is defined as what depth the image your are creating is in focus and which is in soft or shallow focus.

What does a lens hood do?

A lens hood has a couple different jobs

You cameras lens hood can help to shield the front of your lens from the sun rays, or other bright unwanted light, from directly hitting the front lens element and scattering the light creating sun/light flares, those are the rainbow colored streaks and hexagonal colored shapes created when the sun reflects off the aperture.

Another job of the lens hood, or shade is it helps to prevent, minimize any damage to the front of the lens from the elements or in my case from slipping in the mud while out on an outdoor photo-shoot.

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On Camera Off Camera Flash

What is the DIFFERENCE?

The on camera flash

Many of the DSLR cameras have what is called a pop-up or on camera flash, but if you have used this feature you will know that it doesnt always help, well sometimes it even makes your image lighting worse.  Why is that? Well it is because the light, or flash is on the camera and way to close to the lens, and this can create the most unflattering harsh light on your subject.

The reason the light from the pop up flash is a very small light source, and the smaller the light source the harsher the light it produces and sends out.

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Importance of formatting your memory card

Why format your new memory card?

Well lets first ask, what is formatting a memory card?

The memory cards you can purchase for your cameras and other digital recording devices come blank and fit into numerous different recording devices including cameras, phones, video games, appliances and more. It is said you can use them right away there are some information that you should know.

Some people say to just put your new card into your camera and the camera will prompt you to format if needed, well I do not really want to take the chance with my image recording, so I automatically format any new cards I buy. Continue reading “Importance of formatting your memory card”

Photo background and foreground

Have you wanted to do some food photography?  Here are a few things to watch for when you take your images.

Keep it simple but also watch your backgrounds. Add some props but watch how different props add or take away from your image.

I will go through and explain a bit about what I did with each image below and what aspects of the image, in my opinion work and which items should not be there and how to best remedy that.

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Being creative using a slow shutter speed

By slowing down your shutter speed and adding movement, you can create some amazing and       abstract images

A slow shutter speed can create the illusion of movement.

When you experiment with some of the different shutter speeds from fast to slow you open the door to an unlimited variations on creative expression in your images.

By changing shutter speeds when shooting the same view can give you an array of variety that you may not have imagined before in an scene.

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Camera Buttons and Dials

Different settings and buttons, what do they do?

So with the variety of different digital camera models and brands on the market the basics are the same just where the buttons are, and the menus are, differs. We are going to take a look at a Nikon d5300 just to give you a better idea of what does what.

Below we will work on helping you to better understand your camera

So let’s start on the top of the camera there you will see the buttons generally used most often and ones that you wish to have at easier access.

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