Master Aurora Borealis Capturing Techniques: A Guide for Stunning Shots

The enchanting spectacle of Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a sight to behold. Its ethereal beauty, shimmering in the cold, clear night sky, is a rare and captivating experience that leaves observers spellbound. Photographers, both professional and amateur, often find themselves chasing this celestial phenomenon to capture its magnificence. However, capturing the Aurora Borealis requires certain techniques and understanding.

In this article, we will navigate through the nuances of Aurora Borealis capturing techniques, helping you master the art of taking stunning shots of this breathtaking spectacle. Read on to unravel the mysteries of the Northern Lights photography.

Understanding the Aurora Borealis

Before delving into the capturing techniques, understanding the Aurora Borealis is crucial. This natural light display is a result of collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. They are usually seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.

The colours of the Aurora can vary, from pale yellow-green, the most common colour, to red, yellow, green, blue and violet. The type of gas particles colliding and the altitude at which the collision occurs influence the colours. A clear, dark sky away from city lights, usually between 6 PM and 4 AM, provides the best chance to witness this spectacle.

Essential Equipment for Capturing the Aurora

The next step towards mastering Aurora Borealis capturing techniques involves equipping yourself with the right gear. A Digital SLR camera with a high ISO range and a fast wide-angle lens is essential. The wide-angle lens allows you to capture the expansive night sky, while the fast lens (f/2.8 or wider) ensures enough light gets into the sensor.

A sturdy tripod is another non-negotiable piece of equipment. It provides stability, particularly important when shooting in low light conditions where longer exposures are needed. A cable release or remote trigger prevents camera shake when pressing the shutter and allows you to take long exposures without touching the camera. Extra batteries are a must because cold temperatures can drain them quickly.

Camera Settings for Aurora Photography

Understanding and manipulating your camera settings is one of the critical Aurora Borealis capturing techniques. You need to set your camera to manual mode. Start with these settings: set your aperture to the widest setting (lowest f-number), shutter speed to 15-30 seconds, and ISO to 1600.

Remember, these are starting points. Depending on the brightness of the lights, the surrounding light conditions, and the capabilities of your specific camera, you might need to adjust these settings. The aim is to let as much light in as possible without overexposing the image.

Composition and Techniques

Capturing the Aurora Borealis is not just about technical prowess; composition plays a significant role too. Adding an interesting foreground element, such as a silhouette of trees, a reflective lake, or a rustic cabin, can add depth to your images and make them more aesthetically pleasing.

In terms of technique, it’s essential to focus on the stars to ensure a clear, sharp image. To do this, manually set your lens to infinity (∞), aim at a bright star, and adjust the focus until the star is sharp. Also, shoot in RAW format. It allows for greater flexibility when editing, enabling you to bring out the best in your images.

Post-Processing of Aurora Images

Post-processing is the final step in mastering Aurora Borealis capturing techniques. Softwares like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop can enhance your images significantly. Adjusting the contrast, brightness, clarity, and colour saturation can make your images pop.

Remember, while it’s tempting to go overboard with editing, the goal should be to enhance the natural beauty of the Aurora Borealis, not create an artificial spectacle. Keep the edits subtle, and let the Aurora’s natural splendour shine through.


Capturing the Aurora Borealis is a thrilling experience, combining technical skill, creative vision, and a dash of luck. Understanding the phenomenon, equipping yourself with the right gear, mastering camera settings, focusing on composition, and enhancing images through post-processing are critical Aurora Borealis capturing techniques.

Remember, it might take several attempts to perfect your craft, so don’t be disheartened if your initial images don’t turn out as expected. With patience, practice, and persistence, you can master the art of capturing the ethereal beauty of the Aurora Borealis, creating stunning shots that encapsulate the magic of this celestial spectacle.

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