As for most people, taking pictures of your vacation is a must and you probably want to take pictures of Northern lights too. So, can you just point your camera/phone to the sky and shoot away? Well, you could but chances are you will be disappointed. To help you out to achieve the results you want of Aurora Borealis, we compiled a list of a few things to think about.
Equipment for shooting Aurora Borealis
To be honest, you will need a DSLR camera and a tripod to get satisfying pics. A remote for the camera would be brilliant too but the built in timer will do well too. The reason being when you hit that button, the camera will move slightly and we don’t want that with long exposures.
You need a lens that is wide and bright, like a 20mm and with an F stop of 2.8 or under. Northern lights are much darker than you perceive them while you look at them so you want the camera to gather as much light as possible.
Shooting Northern lights is little like shooting a waterfall, the longer the camera is open, the blurrier the lights will become. Northern lights is not stationary , it moves around, sometime at great speed, like a waterfall. So when taking shots, have your camera at its lowest f stop and the ISO as high as you can without the pictures becoming grainy (i.e. too much noise). Experiment with ISO number between 800 to 1600. Most people wants the shots to be crispy and clear.
If your camera has the possibility (most have), take the pictures in RAW instead of jpeg. Not only do you have a bigger range of light to work with afterwards if you are into that but it also allows you to have a much better control of the white balance.
So you are all setup, eagerly anticipating to shoot but what to focus on? Well, start by setting the lens and the camera on manual focus and just set the focus where you want it, may it be the stars, the moon, a skyline or a tree line. If you don’t have a live view, you might find it hard to use the view finder to focus with in the dark but that is easily overcome by turning the focus to infinity. Take a few test shots of starts, like a second long or so and see if you are happy with the results. Also try to turn the focus just a touch away from the infinity setting and look at the result. When you are happy with the focus, you only have to set the time. Start off with 10 seconds and see what happens, you might want to adjust it to your liking. A good white balance number to start with is around 4000k and adjust after your liking.