Land of the Northern Lights!

Iceland is all about the Northern Lights!  During my visit in October 2016, I saw them twice ~ & it is a truly spectacular experience.  It looks like the sky is actually dancing!  If you wish to document your Northern Lights experience, this post will give you specific tips for taking your Northern Lights pictures.  You cannot use the regular settings on your camera ~ your pictures simply won’t turn out.  And most phones (like my Iphone) won’t capture them either, unless the lights are super bright that night.  But don’t count on it!  Read on for your step-by-step guide to getting amazing Northern Lights pictures.  

How to Take Northern Lights Pictures

Northern Lights in Iceland, courtesy of Guide to Iceland

Equipment You’ll Need:  

A High-Quality Camera ~ You’re looking for a full-frame DSLR camera, with high ISO capability.  Full frame means a 35mm or larger sensor, and high ISO equates to less “noise” in your Northern Lights pictures.  A wide-angle lens is ideal (14-24mm range), with fast aperture.  Good options include: Nikon D800 or Canon 5D Mark IV.  

A Tall Tripod ~ The Northern Lights often occur very high up in the sky, meaning a short tripod won’t do you any good.  And without a tripod, your pictures will look like a fuzzy green blur.  A tripod is necessary for taking high-quality Northern Lights pictures.  You can get really expensive with tripods ~ or if you’re more of an amateur, go for Amazon’s lightweight travel tripod.  


Instructions for Camera Settings

These are general instructions that will work for most cameras.  However, every camera is different.  Use these guidelines as a starting point, and if they don’t work for your camera ~ make slight adjustments until you get it right.  Read up on your particular camera to determine your ideal settings ~ then play with it out in the field.

  1. Put your camera in manual mode (M).
  2. Adjust your exposure time to approximately 20 seconds.  
  3. Adjust aperture to 3.5 or lower.
  4. ISO to 800.  
    How to Take Pictures of Northern Lights

    Courtesy of Guide to Iceland

Did these camera settings work for you ~ & what kind of camera are you using?  Where did you see the Northern Lights in Iceland?  Or have you seen them in Norway or Finland?  When we were in Iceland, we saw them in Selfoss, and then right outside of the Blue Lagoon, in Grindavik.  Let me know about your Northern Lights experience in the comment section below!

Enjoy Your Trip!



Noelle Bertram is a former fitness coach & restaurant owner who travels full-time now & writes all about it. Catch up with her on Instagram or @ her website about being the ultimate, fearless travel girl:!

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