How to photograph the northern lights?

Perhaps one of the most popular photos on the internet and social media is the wonderful photos of the northern lights while dancing. So how can we shoot these constantly moving lights in the dark? First of all, let’s complete our equipment.

Aurora borealis fotoğraf çekimi

The essentials;

  • DSLR camera (with manual mode) (even if you don’t have a camera, there are rental options available today. You can rent it before your trip.)
  • Tripod
  • Extra batteries


  • Wide angle lens
  • High memory SD cards (Make the conditions of your memory because the photos will be in high quality or if you make timelapse hundreds of photos)
  • Remote control (or self-timer shooting feature)
  • Head lamp, flashlight, flasher etc.
  • High ISO performance
  • Bag for your camera (to protect the camera from the cold)
Kuzey ışıkları

After completing the equipment written on the list, let’s come to how we can take these photos?

1. First, identify the place that will create a beautiful composition with the northern lights. This can be a lake edge or a place with a view of the northern lights steaming from the chimney of a house. (Include an object and northern lights in the same frame because of the ground)

2. Place your camera on a tripod.

3. Choose your machine’s manual setting option.

4. Turn off auto focus. (Turn off Image stabilization, noise reduction, if any)

5. If your lens has infinite focus options, do not use it, otherwise, adjust the focus of your camera based on something that you will set at a distance from daytime. This can be a tree, a rock or a horizon. If necessary, mark that point on your lens with a pen or knife, and quickly bring it to the spot in the dark at night to adjust the focus.

6. Choose a wide-angle and fast lens.

7. Open the diaphragm as much as possible. (F1.4, F2.8, F4)

8. Take a long exposure. (but maximum 30 seconds)

9. You can use high ISO value. (eg 2500) This shutter will shorten your number, allowing you to take more pictures. (but if there is light pollution in your environment, you can decrease your ISO value)

10. For white balance; Choose between “Fluorescent” or “Incandescent” settings.

11. Press the shutter button using the time setting or remote control.

12. If you want to enter the same frame with the lights, keep your phone’s flash or flashlight on in front of your camera. (You will be enlightened in the dark thanks to this light) Go to the place where you will be photographed and wait without moving. Press the shutter with your camera and your photo is ready with lights on top.

13. If you want to shoot video of the northern lights, all you have to do is take pictures in “timelapse” format. After making your camera’s manual settings as mentioned above, you can take photos using the timelapse feature and then combine these photos on the computer to get your video.

14. If you are a photographer or someone who understands about photography, you can take your photos in RAW format for better editing later.

Kuzey ışıkları

If you do not have a DSLR camera and think about photographing the northern lights with your mobile phone, the answer is; Yes! (but they probably not satisfied you 🙂

So, how to take a photo of the northern lights with a mobile phone?

1. First, identify a dark place.

2. There must be a tripod where you can fix your phone. (otherwise fix it somewhere)

3. Then put your phone in airplane mode so that there is no flickering with messages, etc. Even close unnecessary apps.

4. Then clean your lens beautifully with a microfiber cloth.

5. If available, adjust the photo settings manually. Otherwise, download applications that can do this (ProCam, Nightcap, Northern Lights Photo Taker, Cortex Camera etc.).

6. Use night mode if available.

7. Turn off the flash.

8. If the intensity of the lights is low, set the ISO to 800 or more.

9. Touch the screen and focus the northern lights.

10. Use the long exposure setting. (Ideal for 15sec phone)

11. If available, use the voice command to take a picture.

12. Edit the photos you take with photoshop applications as you wish.

If you don’t have a mobile phone/camera or if you think I can’t take those photos, don’t worry! It is possible to find a northern lights photographer. By acting together with photographers you can easily find on the internet, you can take your photos and videos for a fee, and you can have amazing frames thanks to the experts of this work.

Finally, you should definitely learn how to use your camera and its usages before arrive there. Because while viewing the northern lights, instead of looking at the lights, you can miss the lights while looking at your camera’s settings. You can find many videos on YouTube under the name “how to take a photo of the northern lights”.