One of the world’s most impressive natural phenomena, the Northern Lights captivates the world on every occurrence offering a rare glimpse into something exceptional. Part of the wonder of the Aurora Borealis is its unpredictability and elusive nature which make them tricky to capture on camera.

Although many associate the Northern Lights with Scandinavian countries or Greenland, they can also be viewed here off the coast of Donegal.

David Parry, product expert at Canon, has put together some useful tips to help you capture the spectacular vision at this time of year when the chances are highest.


1. Study the weather and check the Aurora figures on websites like Solarham to assess the best time to shoot. A full or bright moon will overpower the Aurora so plan to shoot during a lower moon phase if possible. Malin Head in Co. Donegal is one of Ireland’s prime viewpoints for the Lights.

2. Comfort is crucial. Dress to stay out for a while, as chasing the perfect shot can get very addictive. If you get cold, it’s harder to concentrate; hot flasks and warm clothing are worth investing in.

General Equipment

3. A quality tripod and tripod head are necessary pieces of kit. You will want something easy to use in the dark, with gloves on in cold weather and something that won’t wobble in the wind.

4. A reliable remote control cable is useful to keep you away from the camera once the shot is set up, reducing the chance of disturbing it in the dark.

5. A head torch with a red mode can be useful when changing settings, but respect other photographers as it can ruin their work or your own photos.


1. Shoot in manual mode where possible so you can easily adjust the settings, including manual focus, shooting raw or in raw plus large jpeg mode. Get familiar with these settings so you can easily change them in the dark.

2. A larger sensor camera is advisable, letting in more light to help you get a better image. A large frame camera is often best, with some of the favourable options including the EOS 5D Mark IV, EOS 6D or EOS 80D.

3. Adjust the camera’s ISO (how sensitive the camera’s sensor is to light) to get perfect shot. The ideal ISO level for best performance is between 3200-6400 ISO.

4. Use a wide angle lens with a fast aperture, like f2.8 for example. This means the lens will let in more light with a longer exposure to help you capture the fleeting lights.

5. To avoid star trails and get a clear shot, get to know the maximum exposure for your lenses key focal length and adjust the shutter speed accordingly. The 500 rule is a handy formula to look at (500/your focal length in 35mm terms) and apps like PhotoPills can help with this information.

Commenting, David Parry says “It is no surprise that the Northern Lights are sought after by photographers and travellers worldwide. They are one of the most striking and memorable subjects on the planet and if you are fortunate enough to see them, that is a memory you will want to treasure for a lifetime. As such a rare sighting, it really is worth taking note of some of the easy tips and tricks to make your photos as special as the magical sighting you experience.”

He continued “Canon has been helping photographers capture impressive and unique photos for decades and are continuously innovating to create more capable, powerful pieces of equipment to capture occasions as notable as this”.
For information on Canon products, visit

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