We strongly recommend that you learn how to photograph the northern lights before you go, because the lights can go away until you figure it out, which was how it was for us in the first days. Luckily we had the chance to see it a few more times and finally got to photograph it. You go consciously so that you don’t come back empty-handed.
The settings you will use for the northern lights are essentially the same settings as for photographing stars at night. So you can practice by photographing stars before you go. Let’s get to the technique:
Tripod : Tripod is required. If not, you should definitely get a tripod before you go. Otherwise, what we say here is useless. Otherwise, the image will be shaky because you will be using a long exposure.
ISO Setting : It is necessary to bring the camera to the maximum ISO values where the quality of the photo will not deteriorate. It differs for each machine. We shot it in 1600. Higher values can be achieved on machines with very good low light performance.
Aperture Adjustment: The larger the aperture of your lens, the better. F4 and below is an advantage. (Low numbers in F value, ie aperture, mean wider aperture. So F1.8 is better than F2.8, F2.8 is better than F4) Our lens was F2.8.
Snapshot : The last setting is shutter speed. So snapshot. You adjust this according to the intensity of the lights. If it is very severe, it can save even 5 seconds, if the severity is low, 20-25 seconds may be required.
Focus : You need to shoot with manual focus, not auto focus. If you focus on a very, very distant light or moon, you’re done. Or you need to bring the focus to the infinity sign on your lens.
What we have told so far are the long exposure settings required to take a star photo.
IMPORTANT: Let’s get to the main tip. How do you shoot the Northern lights with you in front of it? Since we learned this tactic very late, we had a hard time in the first days.
1- Since you are taking a long exposure (shutter speed min 5 seconds), you should not move at all during the shooting time.
2- You need a light source on you. Since it will be a long exposure, instead of shining a light on you from a very weak source (we did it this way because we didn’t know), the event is solved if the photographer holds a flashlight for 1 second and leaves it under the light. Just don’t close your eyes for that moment.
3- If you stop too close, focus will be a problem again. Keep some distance from the machine.