Capture the Northern Lights

How much must the camera cost? How to adjust the aperture to capture the northern lights? A photographer gives you his best tips!

Autumn has arrived in Lapland and with the dark follows the possibility of seeing northern lights, or Aurora Borealis as it is called in Latin. We picked up a local photographer on Instagram and decided to ask him about photographing the auroras. Is it as difficult as we think?


Hey Lars-Olov!  What attracts you in shooting northern lights?
– It’s something I’m fascinated with and it’s a challenge to shoot, it has to be at the right time and the weather will always have itss importance. It’s a challenge, simply. You cannot just rely on luck when you deal with this.

What is it that makes you run out at night and shoot the northern lights?

– When it’s a really good northern light, you get euphoric, it’s crazy awesome. However, it’s not as cool if it stays still, but otherwise it is very nice. Last Wednesday, I saw that it was playing at full speed so I ran out in panic with the camera. It may happen in a couple of minutes if you’re unlucky, it’s easy to get stressed and start making mistakes.

For how long have you been a photographer?

– I have always liked taking pictures, but it has just become more and more lately. I started with Instagram (@larslarsas) not long ago and have noticed that most of the pictures I’ve posted there besides the northern lights are taken with the phone.

What kind of equipment do you have?

– Panasonic Lumix FZ1000, which a good all-round camera since I wanted something that works with most things.

Do you need to own a super expensive camera for shooting the northern lights?

– No, but it’s of course always the same: the better the gadgets, the better the pictures. But the most important thing is to know how to do it.

How did you learn how to shoot northern lights?

– It was by reading a little online and then testing the techniques. I think it’s fun not to simply turn on the auto mode on the camera. I feel like I’m getting better almost every time I’m out there. I also try to work more on the editing and get better at it. However, it is easy to edit images so that they get too exaggerated. Then it is always a subjective perception. Some think it’s really green and others think it looks less green for example. I think it is more beautiful when you manage to capture several colors in the northern lights, like purple, white and green.

Do you remember you most spectacular northern light?

– One of the times when I was outside last year, I felt that the northern lights stood quite still and were a bit boring. I thought then “Well, I’m crazy about this, this is not going to be so good.” I talked to a friend at the same time and looked down on the phone for a little while. When I looked up then it was a real show in the sky, and since I’d previously played a bit with the settings on the camera I got a bit stressed before I got everything together. It is one of the finest northern lights I have seen and I will not forget that night for a while.

Best fika in the woods?

– When I have time for it, tea and cardamom biscuits.

How long are you outside every time?

– I usually stay out as long as there is action in the sky if it does not get too late at night. I always check Aurora app before I leave. I do not sit outside waiting a few hours before.

What is your final tip?

– It’s better to prepare a little before and make sure you have charged batteries and know approximately where to go. Before I used to wander a bit but now I know my places. When you get out, open the aperture of the camera as much as possible (as low as possible on f). Then just focus on something far away (maybe a star) as close to the northern lights as possible and work with shutter speed and iso. It’s also important to have a nice disposition on the picture, I think shooting straight is usually not so fun.

Lars-Olov’s best tips for shooting northern lights

  • Learn how to use your camera and its settings and buy a good tripod.
  • Learn image processing because it will usually not be perfect directly from the camera.
  • Good to learn more about northern lights, for example good places to see them more easily. Do not be afraid to try, mistakes will be made and that’s how you learn.
  • Check an app like Aurora and see when it will happen.
  • Follow the Facebook page “Norrsken”. You will find a lot of information there.


Did you know?

The northern lights are purple when solar particles collide with nitrogen atoms and green when they collide with oxygen atoms.

Find more photos by Lars-Olovs on Instagram – @larslarsas

Northern Lights outside of Lycksele. Photo: Lars-Olov

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