It’s one of the most spectacular scenes in the world and for that reason alone, the Northern Lights constantly attracts photographers from all over the world. Even though they have been snapped hundreds of thousands of times (if not more), we all want a slice of the action so that we can proudly stare at them on the wall of our house.
Before you get to the photo printing stage, it stands to reason that you need to learn how to take a photo of something of such magnitude though. Suffice to say, this isn’t like a portrait or anything else which is so-called simple. Instead, this is one of the most complex types of photography out there, with the varying degrees of light just adding to the complexity.
Bearing this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the best tips to photograph the Northern Lights.
Make sure you keep warm
This first suggestion is anything but technical, but it’s by far and away the most important step you will take.
In short, it’s absolutely freezing once you arrive at the Northern Lights. It’s the sort of cold where you won’t be able to feel your hands and it should go without saying at this point that this can be damaging to the quality of your photographs. You’ll struggle to keep still, your concentration levels will drop and overall, you will have spurned the perfect photo opportunity.
Your hands are naturally one of the main things you should be focusing on. As well as donning a thick pair of mitts, it’s advisable to wear some thinner silk ones underneath so that you can easily adjust your camera.
A tripod is essential
This next point is probably completely expected following the previous section. After all, if your body is cold and shaking, the chances of snapping a still image are pretty much zero.
This is where a tripod enters the equation. Sure, they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but on some occasions they do work very well and this can be one of them.
Furthermore, this is a scene which is notoriously dark. This means that you will need a slower shutter speed, with the upshot of this being that your camera is more susceptible to movement. Again, through a tripod, you can mitigate this risk and keep your image completely still.
It’s not just about the sky
One of the main mistakes a lot of people make when taking a photo of the Northern Lights is to only focus on the sky. In some ways, this is completely understandable, as it’s the vibrant lights that really capture everyone’s attention.
From a photography perspective, you can get more out of the scene though. Don’t just take the sky, take things around it. Bring some context into the photo; bring people standing and gazing into the sky, and all of the other factors of the landscape. This really brings your photo to life – and that should never be underestimated.