Quick Tips for those who have never photographed the aurora, or who have absolutely no idea how to use their camera:
You can use almost any camera. It does not have to be a “big” camera, a “fancy” camera, or an expensive camera. It does need to have certain features. Most cell phones cannot take pictures of the aurora because of the settings.
1. Turn your camera on Manual, not automatic. This may be marked “M” or “Manual”.
2. If you have a Canon, you may see a setting called “Long Shutter”. For Nikon, this may say “Night Scene”. This will help you set up what you need.
3. Set your ISO to 800. After you get the hang of it, you can play around with the ISO to adjust what you like and what your camera is capable of. For now, just put it on 800 ISO.
4. For the shutter speed, set it on 15″ (15 seconds).
5. For the white balance, keep it on AUTO for now.
6. For colors, you can keep it off or turn it on vivid or green.
7. Set your focus to infinity. Sometimes this symbol looks like little mountains, or a sideways number 8. It is the opposite of macro, which is sometimes shown as a little flower symbol and means close-up.
8. Put your self-timer on 2 seconds, so that when you click the button, your camera won’t shake when the picture is taken.
9. You must put your camera on a surface or use a tripod. You can take a picture while holding your camera, but it will be blurry. If you place your camera on top of your car, turn off the engine.
10. Point your camera to the aurora. Hopefully there isn’t a light source in that direction, such as a streetlight. This will put too much light on your photo.
For more in-depth aurora photography, here are some great articles by professional photographers
Dennis Mammana Photographing the Aurora
Dick Hutchinson Shooting the Aurora Borealis
Patrick Endre Alaska photography blog