Northern Lights photography - Camera settings

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Tripod, camera and lens
It is important to use a tripod due to slow shutter speed. The shutter speed is the time the camera spends to take a photo. If you use a hand held camera without a tripod, the images will be blurry because of movement while the shutter is open. It is recommended to use a light sensitive wide-angle lens with a low aperture number (f2.8 or better). Set it to manual focus and at infinity.

SLR cameras are the best, but some compact cameras can actually take great pictures of the light.

Camera settings – Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed
Mount the camera to the tripod and set it to manual settings. Turn off automatic settings. The focus point should be at infinity. (This is often showed by the icon: ∞)

Set the blender at full aperture, f/2.8 or lower.

It is often needed to set the ISO to a high value to be able to capture enough light. Try starting with an ISO setting of 1600 and work your way up to higher values if needed. You can try an ISO of 2000 or higher, but this can introduce noise to the final picture, or the picture may appear slightly grainy. If the moon is up, you may need to set the ISO to a lower value than if it was pitch dark outside.

Shutter Speed
Shutter speed is the time the shutter is open and the light is actually exposed on to the final picture.
To be able to get a good shot of the northern lights it is recommended to have it set to seconds.

Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed
Start out with a full aperture, ISO 1600 and shutter speed of 8 seconds, play around with the values.

Try taking a photo with ISO 1600 and a shutter speed of 8 seconds. Take a new photo with ISO 1600, but with a longer shutter time of 15 seconds. The latter picture will be brighter, if it gets too bright you can try reducing the shutter speed with a few seconds or you can reduce the ISO value down to 1200 and keep the shutter at 15 seconds. The easiest is to keep your aperture at a full opening (f2.8 or lower) and only adjust the ISO and shutter. But you can of course adjust the aperture from 2.8 to other values, for example 3.5 to get a darker picture.  


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