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How to film the Northern Lights with a GoPro Hero 4

For the last few days I’ve been in Kiruna in Northern Sweden, doing all sorts of fun stuff like dog sledding, snow mobiling, visiting the ice hotel and generally hanging out at the camp site in the sauna. This is fun and all, but the main reason people come out here is to see the Northern Lights (or Aurora Borealis).

I recently bought a GoPro Hero 4 and was hoping it would be able to film the Northern Lights and it turns out it can πŸ˜€

I’m a total amateur when it comes to photography or filming things and I found it super difficult to find any useful information on the web on how to film the Northern Lights using a GoPro, particularly the latest model. So after a lot of digging and some experimentation, I was able to get it to work. Here was the results:


Seeing as I found it super difficult to find the optimal settings, I’ll share it with you in hope this gets indexed by Google and its much easier for others to find / use. So here we go:

Mode: Night Lapse

  • Shutter = 30 sec
  • Interval = Continuous
  • MP = 12MP Wide
  • Spot Meter = OFF
  • Protune = ON
  • White Balance = 3000K
  • ISO Limit = 800
  • Sharpness = High

Unless you have it plugged into a power source, I recommend turning off wifi and strongly recommend turning off the display at the back. (Settings –> Touch Display –> Power = OFF)

Try to position your GoPro Hero 4 away from light and pointing at the sky. You’ll need at least a couple of hours of footage to create something worthy, so make sure you’re prepared to have your camera sitting out there for some time and of course the battery fully charged.

Good luck and if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

  • BelΓ©n

    Thank you for your review!
    Did you use any kind of tripod or scenlapse to make you go pro stay still?

  • I used a very basic GoPro tripod that is about 20 – 30cm long and doubles as a selfie stick. It sat on snow.

  • Ricky Bernabe

    this is so helpful! was wondering how many minutes/hours go pro 4 battery last on taking these settings. thanks

  • TJ Savolainen

    Thank you very much for the advice!! Nice timelapse πŸ™‚

  • Tom Morrow

    I too am interested in battery life using these settings. I will be going to Yellowknife, Canada to see aurora. Want to use Gopro Hero 4 Silver with wifi and app. I will have extra batteries and external USB power packs. Will use handwarmers to keep batteries warm. Trying to figure out how much power I need for about 6 hours of shooting. Thanks for the article and any advice!

  • Jamie Docka

    I did a night lapse with my Hero 4. I have a 18000mAh external battery and that was able to last about 21 hours with taking pictures every minute. I also used it for a night time lapse in the Upper Peninsula and only went through 1/3 of the battery in a 9 hour sitting.

  • Seokchan Yeo

    Hello! Beautiful video and nice article!
    Can I connect a powerbank while I am recording?
    Cause everytime when I connect it for charging, I couldn-t turn it on..
    I am going to Murmansk, Russia. Wish me luck dude.

  • In that light, how much could you see with the naked eye?

  • It’s actually quite faint, you can definitely see it, but it is not as vivid as photographing it with a long exposure time.

  • Can’t see why not, although you might want to cover it up so it doesn’t get cold. I didn’t need one because I turned off wifi, back display etc. Thanks for the feedback! πŸ™‚

  • Thanks for the feedback! πŸ™‚
    The battery life is pretty good if you turn the fancy stuff off. (like the back display and wifi) Maybe you could try out the settings before hand and see if it lasts 6 hours.

  • Thanks! πŸ™‚

  • Not sure, but video lasts ~2 hours, so time lapse should last a lot longer than that.

  • Jack Dadswell

    Hey dude, just wanna say that’s for this post I used your settings as you’ve posted on my trip to Iceland last week. And I got an amazing night lapse and some awesome pics, even when the wind was so strong it blew the sunction off the roof of the car.

  • Jack Dadswell

    https://youtu.be/OkZ1k8TBvI0 Here is my time lapse again thank you for this article

  • Margarita

    Hello,
    I just got a gopro silver 4 and I’m still figuring it out to use it to catch the northern lights this week in Alaska your page is helping me through the process πŸ™‚ what settings do you recommend for taking photos in addition to the video? Thanks ~Dai

  • Jack Dadswell

    Hey if it helps I used the same settings on night photo as he recommends on the time lapse worked wonders for me. Check my pics on my comment below.

  • Margarita

    Great thanks for the tips. Does the gopro work well in the cold ? It wont freeze right? I will have back up batteries with me.

  • Jack Dadswell

    I had mine is in the full case out in -15 and was fine the whole time got a bit of condensation when I brought it inside but only on outside of the lense. I’ve heard stories about poor battery life in cold weather, but my official GoPro battery lasted over 3 hrs, unofficial about 1.5 hrs

  • Mitch

    Having read some of the comments below, what I’m about to say echoes others sentiments. Having just returned from a trip to Iceland I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights and the Night Lapse tips above for the GoPro Hero 4 were spot on and resulted in some great shots. Cheers Mitch

  • yoku

    Hi there, Hero 4 silver does not have iso800. What setup should I choose instead? Thanks!

  • NatΓ‘lie

    Hi, I have a problem πŸ™ my gopro can take only pictures, not the video πŸ™ what should I do ? any idea ? thank you in advance πŸ™ i put all of the setting πŸ™

  • Alex

    Was this with a black or silver?

  • Parichat Shacha Charoensuksiri

    Could you please tell me how to set the Gopro silver like this? Thank you

  • Nice one. Managed to get some good northern lights time lapse footage up in the Yukon using similar GoPro settings. Used our CamDo outdoor kit and Blink GoPro time lapse controller to leave it out overnight and not run out of battery. Check out the blog post here.

  • Britt

    Used your advice last year and it turned out great : https://youtu.be/HgFpaCOfyV4

    Thanks! Would you adjust your settings any with the latest update?

  • Pupcraze

    Hi, do you have any advice as to where to position the gopro so that I don’t have to hold it the entire time (for stabilisation purposes)? Also do you have any advice as to how/what settings to use the gopro to take photos, as opposed to videos, of northern lights?

    Thanks! πŸ™‚

  • Mike Voellmecke

    Thanks so much for posting this. I found it just in time to set my camera up in Northern Norway a couple weeks ago and captured the whole night on film! I was really happy with how it came out. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSrnMAGPmHs

  • Monica Liu

    This is from a GoPro with the settings recommended above? This looks great!

  • Monica Liu

    I just got the Hero5, I can set up the above setting except for the interval part, Continuous is not an option, I can pick 1m,3m,5m, etc. Which one should I pick?

  • Mike Voellmecke

    Thanks Monica! Yes, it was exactly with those settings, so definitely recommend. The only things I might experiment more with in the future are the ISO and maybe even try a 20s shutter speed during “bright” conditions to see if I can get less blurring.

    With the Hero5 that you got, are you sure it does not have a mode called Night Lapse tucked under the multi-photo menu? On the Hero4, there are three main menus – Video, Photo and Multi-shot. Night Lapse is under Multi-shot.

    Good luck and let me know how it goes for you!

  • Mike Voellmecke

    A tripod is a must. It will not work if you hold it, it will be way too blurry. You can mount a GoPro to most standard tripods or something like a Jobi Gorillapod using these: https://www.amazon.com/AmazonBasics-Tripod-Mounts-for-GoPro/dp/B00XNKW45I

    The Night Lapse mode on the GoPro actually takes photos, not video, so you have to turn them into a video afterwards. Therefore I recommend that you still use the above settings and let it run for a while so that you get a bunch of photos. Then you can go through and find the best ones.

  • Mike Voellmecke

    Hi Monica, see my response to your other comment below for this. You will not get a smooth time lapse if it is not continuous, so be sure that you locate it. Night Lapse mode should be under the Multi-shot settings.

  • Christina white

    Hi Mike, I am having the same issue as Monica with my Hero5. This model has 4 modes, photo, burst, time lapse and video. It seems on burst you can change the rate to 30/1 and time lapse the interval max is 60 seconds. I am new to using a GoPro, so this is all very foreign to me! Thanks for your help.

  • Mike Voellmecke

    Hi Christina, I don’t yet have a Hero5 (hopefully very soon!) so I can’t say for sure, but you should be able to change the Burst setting to Night Lapse. On the Hero4, you can scroll through 3 multi-shot modes – Burst, Time Lapse and Night Lapse. Under Night Lapse, there is an option called Shutter where you set the amount of time for the lens to stay open for light collection. You should have options between 2-30 seconds. I hope that helps you find it but let me know if not, and I’ll check back after I get my Hero5 to provide clearer advice.

  • Christina White

    Thank you! I did find the night lapse photo mode and see the option Shutter and can set this to 30 seconds. The issue is the interval only has the options of auto, 1m, 2m, 3m, 5m, 30m and 60m. There isn’t a continuous option? Any suggestions?

  • Annelie

    Hi Mike. I wonder if anyone has an answer to Christina’s question above? We can replicate all the settings of the hero 4 on the hero 5 black, however under interval the “continuous” option does not exist. Which alternative would be best to use: Auto, 1m, 2m, 3m, 5m, 30m or 60m?

  • Mike Voellmecke

    Hi Annelie, Christina, everyone:

    Sorry for my slow response, but I got my new GoPro Hero5 and have been able to test this out. It turns out that the “Auto” setting has replaced “Continuous” on the Hero4, so use that. Here’s a couple of quick tests I ran to make sure it works:

    If you found this helpful, please consider subscribing to my Adventure Every Day YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChtkEMDNZ3IjFcohGt5KhiA

    Thanks and thanks to Brendan Marsh for letting me take over this chat thread πŸ™‚

  • Anton

    Hi! How did you made this into a video? Thanks!

  • Martin Reynolds

    Can someone recap the hero 5 black setting to shoot the northern lights

  • Martin Reynolds

    Can you please recap the settings for the Hero 5 black

  • Mike Voellmecke

    Hi Martin, here’s a quick recap for you:

    When you turn it on, click the little camera icon in the bottom left corner, then select the icon that looks like a clock with an arrow going around it. There, you should see an option called Night Lapse Photo. From there, suggested settings are:

    Shutter: 10-30 seconds depending on ambient light and brightness of aurora
    Interval: AUTO
    Field of View: Your choice depending on how distorted you want it to be

    Slide to the right to get the ProTune settings and use:

    Color: Your choice, but I’ve been using flat lately and doing some color correcting afterwards
    White Balance: 300K
    ISO Min: 800 (400 could also be ok I think)
    ISO Max: 800 (option 400)
    Sharpness: High

    This should work pretty well for you. I just had really good luck with it in Longyearbyen on Svalbard:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtbKUPO9erE&feature=youtu.be

    Good luck and please check out my YouTube channel if you found this helpful πŸ™‚

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChtkEMDNZ3IjFcohGt5KhiA

  • leo36

    I see a ISO 800 whit a arrow down in settings on night lapse and a ISO 100 down whit an arrow down also. Should bout these be 800 ISO?.

  • Ceri Riddle

    Thanks for the settings. We have awesome pictures of the Northern Lights in Iceland