Using an iPhone 11 Pro to Capture the Northern Lights

The latest crop of smartphones all feature incredible low-light photography modes that can capture things that were unthinkable just one year ago. Case in point: Zach Honig, Editor-at-Large of The Points Guy, recently captured the Northern Lights in Coldfoot, AK using just an iPhone 11 Pro Max… handheld!

Honig shared his experience on his popular travel blog, where he also shared some tips for anyone else who wants to photograph the Northern Lights with a smartphone—whether that’s a Pixel 4 or any of the iPhone 11 models.

Honig shares five tips in all:

  1. Consider your composition and put something int he foreground
  2. Ensure proper focus by using a flashlight to light the foreground while focusing
  3. Confirm that night mode is active (iPhone only)
  4. Capture plenty of frames, since the aurora changes quickly
  5. Review your work every few shots to ensure that you’re happy with focus, exposure and other details.

By following these basic tips, Honig was able to capture this photograph—a 3-second handheld exposure shot with the iPhone 11 Pro Max:

After a bit of processing, he wound up here:

Funny thing is, Honig tells PetaPixel that he actually took a tripod and a “better” camera. But in the end, he preferred the results from his smartphone.

“As it turns out, I overpacked a bit for my trip to see the Northern Lights, bringing along a tripod, smartphone adapter and a Sony RX100 VII,” says Honig. “My best shots ended up coming from the iPhone 11 Pro Max, using the native app and 3-second Night Mode exposures.”

“Since Night Mode appeared automatically, most of the time it was as simple as pointing the camera at the sky and tapping the shutter button,” he continues, “though I did need to use a flashlight to illuminate an object and help the iPhone focus for a few of the shots.”

To read all about this experience or find out how Honig processed the image, head over to The Points Guy for the full story. And if you’re using one of the latest Samsung, Apple, Huawei, or Google phones and have captured some amazing Aurora or astrophotography of your own, drop it in the comments.

Image credits: Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy and used with permission.

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