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That moment when you see the Northern Lights in the Arctic for the first time is one you never forget. The swirling, dancing, racing colours paint the night sky in reds, blues, yellows, and greens - a phenomenal show courtesy of Mother Nature herself. The chance to see this spectacle is almost never guaranteed, but if you’re lucky enough to spend an evening gazing at the Northern Lights, you’ll want to capture the moment. You’ve probably seen some of the amazing photographs that are possible (like the ones in this article), but taking photos of the Northern Lights is an art - not a point-and-shoot exercise. We’ve put together five tips for photographing the Northern Lights that should get you one step closer to capturing the magic on film.

1.   Bring a tripod

We know, tripods are not known for being light and easy to carry around - but this is one tool you can’t skip if you plan to photograph the Northern Lights. You’ll need a tripod that is sturdy and robust, and that can handle high winds or other weather conditions you may experience in the Arctic. As you’ll need to keep your camera perfectly still, while taking long exposures, the tripod will be your secret weapon.

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2.   Get to know your camera settings

Purchasing a brand new camera before your trip and expecting to take Instagram worthy photographs of the Northern Lights is a rookie mistake. Before you set off on a Northern Lights voyage, understand your camera’s capabilities - particularly your lense settings. Most experts recommend a lense with a fast aperture of around f1.4 or f2.8 and ISO settings at between ISO 400 and ISO 1000. You’ll need a long exposure to capture the subtle colours of the sky, so a camera that is too light sensitive will never do the show justice.

3.   Find some perspective

When you are standing under a giant sky of dancing lights, perspective is easy. In a photograph this can easily be lost and the once impressive nature of the experience is suddenly flat. Try to find an object or landmark to use within your photos to give the viewer better perspective. This could be a shadowy mountain, tree, or even you. Using an object which is emitting light itself (for example, a tent glowing from a torch that has been turned on inside) can create an especially dramatic effect.

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4.   Remember your surroundings

You’ll probably be joining your Northern Lights tour from the comfort of a heated ship or hotel. Outside the temperatures will be freezing and your cameras and batteries won’t do well adjusting to the sudden extreme conditions. Keep extra batteries somewhere warm (a backpack or jacket pocket) as the cold will drain them quickly and render them useless. Your camera should be exposed to the colder air ahead of set-up. If you attempt to photograph the Northern Lights with a camera that has just been exposed to the cold, you’ll likely end up with condensation which will negatively affect your final photos.

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5.   Enjoy the moment

We live in a share as you go world, and it’s not unusual to share photos, videos, and even live streams on social media at the very second we are experiencing something. This can be great for your friends and family, but it can also keep you from fully enjoying a special moment. By all means, take some beautiful pictures of the Northern Lights - but remember to take some time to create beautiful memories as well.

Are you ready to make your dream of seeing the Northern Lights a reality? Enquire today and we’ll help you plan your perfect trip to the Arctic. 

Enquire About Polar Routes

When Do You Want To Go?

Enquire About Tips for Photographing the Northern Lights
About Us
  • We can compare a huge selection of expedition ships, cruises and operators to find your perfect cruise.

  • Our prices are amongst the best in the business, with full package protection as standard.

  • We are the expedition cruise specialists and know the destinations, ships and operators inside out

  • As supporters of the Marine Conservation Society, booking with us helps support the protection of our oceans.

  • Our holidays are protected by ATOL and ABTOT, for your complete peace of mind.


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Why book with Polar Routes?

  • We can compare a huge selection of expedition ships, cruises and operators.
  • From former Russian research vessels to larger and luxurious ships - there is an expedition cruise to suit you. 
  • Our Travel Specialists will help you choose the perfect expedition cruise for your requirements.
  • We are the expedition cruise specialists and know all the polar destinations inside out.
  • Our expert team of Travel Specialists have extensive knowledge of all the expedition ships & operators.
  • All of our Travel Specialists have first-hand experience of expedition cruising to the polar regions.
  • Our prices are the amongst the best in the business, with full package protection as standard.
  • Our holidays are protected by ATOL and ABTOT, for your complete peace of mind.
  • As supporters of the Marine Conservation Society, booking with us helps support the protection of our oceans.

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