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New Contributor
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎10-07-2013

How can I best shot the Northern Lights with a Canon A3400 IS? So far the pictures are v.graney

I am trying to shoot the Northern Lights - and so far the pictures are coming out very graney... Horrible! Best would be to set F-Stop manually for 4.5, but cannot seem to do that on this model. Any suggestions greatly welcome - I am desperate as my time in Iceland is short! Many thanks!!!

Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎02-28-2013

Re: How can I best shot the Northern Lights with a Canon A3400 IS? So far the pictures are v.graney

Is there a night setting?  At a bare minimum, I would reduce the exposure compensation - assuming there is something like that. Camera-auto exposures aim for grey, so if you're shooting something with a lot of black - like the night sky - then it will try to over-expose unless you tell it otherwise.  There is probably a "night mode" or "sunset" or something like that, give those a go.  Then see if you can adjust the exposure that it aims for, usually there's some sort of dial that will show from -2 to +2 in 1/3 increments.

 

That said, you'll have to accept that you're not going to get great images out of a $150 point and shoot when it comes to low light photography.  That's why people spend so much on dSLRs, for the low light abilities.

 

 

Oh, and turn off your flash.  It won't affect anything, good or bad, but I always get a kick out of seeing peoples flashes going off for sunsets and star shots and whatnot.

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New Contributor
Posts: 2
Registered: ‎10-07-2013

Re: How can I best shot the Northern Lights with a Canon A3400 IS? So far the pictures are v.graney

Thanks so much for that on the exposure - should it be on the +2 side? If so, how high? Many thanks again!

Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎02-28-2013

Re: How can I best shot the Northern Lights with a Canon A3400 IS? So far the pictures are v.graney

No, the opposite, you want to underexpose it.  I can't say exactly how much, it'll depend on the ambient lighting, the brightness of the aurora, and your camera.  I would start somewhere around -1 and see how it looks.  I wouldn't be at all surprised to go down to -2 or beyond, but I've never seen the aurora with my own eyes so I have no idea how bright it actually is.  Nor have I used a A3400, so it depends on how much it tries to over-expose in a dark setting.

 

Just snap some shots, see how they look and adjust accordingly.  Keep in mind that LCDs aren't usually spot on with how the exposure will look on a monitor, and histograms are going to be tough in that situtation.  If you only have one shot at it I'd get a range of exposures and see what looks best on the screen.

Frequent Contributor
Posts: 41
Registered: ‎06-29-2013

Re: How can I best shot the Northern Lights with a Canon A3400 IS? So far the pictures are v.graney

Skirball is giving good suggestions.

 

I have the 1300is and recently took some night photographs of clouds illuminated by city lights.  A case like yours of a few smal bright objects on a black background.  In those situations cameras on automatic settings will try to lighten the average view, thinking you want to see what is in the black areas too, so they will wash out the illuminated areas.  I put my 1300is on the special night scene mode via the functions button, then I also adjusted it so it underexposed (negative exposure compensation).  I took about 6 photographs with various exposure settings from no compensation to underexposing to -2 or whatever.  On the normal setting it was still trying to brighten the dark areas which is exactly what I don't want it to do.  Once I took it down a full setting or two it kept the black sky properly back and left the clouds the proper illumination level.  Still, out of 6 photos I only got one good one.

 

If you're doing this without a tripod then you may get some fuzziness due to camera shake.  Northern lights are not very bright and your camera may have to take quite a long exposure to get enough light.  Even if you are rock solid, don't forget the lights themselves are changing so you may end up averaging the view over a few seconds.

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