Photos of Northern Lights in Iceland – 8 Tips

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Northern lights are one of the most beautiful natural phenomena that we can observe. Once you’ve seen them you’ll want to preserve your memory of them. I have written a short guide for you. In it I explain briefly which things you need to pay attention to and how to successfully take your own photos of Northern Lights in Iceland.


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1. Learn About the Likelihood of Northern Lights

Before you leave, you should inform yourself about the likelihood of seeing Northern Lights during your travel time. In the summer time the probability goes down to zero. This is because the summer days are very short. Iceland lies so far north that the sun doesn’t set for a week.

From September to March you have the best opportunities to see north lights.

2. Bring a good camera

You want to take pictures of north lights? Well, leave your phone in your pocket. I haven’t found a mobile phone yet that takes good enough pictures in the dark to capture the Northern Lights. .
You need a camera that can work with small aperture and long exposure time. Any SLR camera should do these days.


3. Don’t forget your tripod

As I’ve already mentioned, you have to expose the photos for a long time. And with long I mean 15-30 seconds minimum. This is completely impossible to shoot while actually holding the camera, if you value sharp pictures!

Either you put your camera somewhere stable (on the roof of your car or the ground) or you remember to take a tripod with you. Whether this is a large tripod, that you can extend to the height of 2m or a small gorilla arm is up to you. I opted for number one, because I left my tripod at home …


4. Know your camera

If you are not great with photography and shoot your vacation pictures mostly in automatic mode, you should read a thing or two about your camera. You won’t be able to capture the Northern Lights in auto mode.

First of all you should understand the basics of your camera and photography as you’ll have to adjust aperture and exposure time yourself. I am not a professional photographer myself, so here are a few tips:

  • The aperture must be wide open (the f-number gets smaller as the aperture is opened. That means F3.5 – as opposed to F11 opens the aperture up and more light gets in)
  • You’ll need a long exposure time (15-30 seconds)
  • And keep your camera steady!


If you are unsure, just plan for a little more time to play around with the settings.


5. What’s the the weather forecast

This point is kinda similar to our tip n°1, I know. However, as the weather can change dramatically in a short time, I advise you to stay informed about the weather forecast.

On this site ( you can see very clearly at which places Iceland you can currently see the northern lights. Please note that dark green means you CAN’T see them. Do not make the same mistake as I do and think “The greener, the more Northern Lights”. This is wrong and can potentially end in tears 😉


6. Dress warmly

In Iceland it is colder than here in Germany. The highest temperature in summer is approx. 15°C. … The highest temperature in summer! And you’ll probably go in autumn or winter, if you want to see northern lights. When we were there, the cars’ windshields froze over at night.

So you’ll do yourself a big favor with thermo underwear, a hat, a scarf and a thick jacket. In the ideal case you also have a warm cup of soup or a tea at hand.


7. Look for a dark place

In general, this shouldn’t be difficult in Iceland. In Reykjavik, of course, you can encounter problems if the light pollution is too great. But northern lights can sometimes even been seen there. In the rest of Iceland it is very easy to find a dark place. And even if a house with lights is nearby, you can not only photograph the northern lights, but also see them.


8. Don’t be disappointed

Northern Lights in real life are not comparable to Northern Lights on photos and postcards you might have seen. The don’t light up as much and your camera will add a good amount of saturation and will intensify the green (or red or purple).

When we saw Nordlichter for the first time, we weren’t quite sure at first whether it was a cloud or a northern light. To be fair though, I need to add that we had just exited a brightly lit house and our eyes had yet to get used to the darkness.

Have you taken photos of northern lights? Put them into the comments. I’m looking forward to them!








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