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photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland

How to Photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland – DOs and DON’Ts

Northern Lights are really beautiful and not at all challenging to catch with a camera if you know what you’re doing. Here are a few guidelines that you might want to consider before venturing out to try and photograph the northern lights in Iceland (after you’ve checked the forecast, that is):

photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland

— DON’Ts —

  • Try to make do with your camera phone. You need a proper camera.
  • Do not… under any circumstances… forget to take a tripod with you as you cannot “just” photograph the Northern Lights. And however little you think you move while waiting for your camera to take your picture, believe me: you do move. Movement = blurry pictures. We don’t want that.
  • If it’s primarily photography you’re into, I don’t particularly recommend going by boat, unless it’s a very still night on the sea. As great an experience as a Northern Lights hunt by boat is, you will have to contend with the motion of the ocean. Just go on a boat trip without your camera and enjoy the view.
photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland: not like this
How to photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland: Not like thisThis image is from a Northern Lights expedition I took but forgot my tripod. As you can see, the lights are visible, but the photo is very blurry.

— DOs —

  • Have a relatively good camera with you that allows for an easy and quick change of settings.
  • You want to have your ISO set to 800 and your aperture as low as it goes.
  • Focus on a faraway light source (preferably with manual focus as autofocus can be horribly tedious).
  • Your shutter speed should be anywhere between 5 seconds to 30 seconds, although the optimal would be between 5-20 (30 is for very faint lights, basically).
  • You can also do continuous shooting so that while shooting the lights you can enjoy watching them without having to look through your camera.
  • You do have to play around with the settings depending on the intensity of the lights, but these guidelines should help you get the best out of your photo shoot.
  • Watch this video for tips for photographing the northern lights.
  • DO enjoy them without your camera, even if you choose to take the pictures manually.
Northern Lights by super jeep
How to photograph the Northern Lights in Iceland: Something like this!

Photos by Ágnes Viktória Jávorszky

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