How to Photograph Lightning

Lightning is a single of the hardest photographic subjects to shoot correctly. It really is fantastic fun but you have to have a fair bit of luck to capture a nicely exposed, very well composed scene loaded with fascinating lightning bolts.

The key to acquiring fantastic pictures is to be effectively geared up and get the camera’s options just right. Immediately after that it is really a situation of getting individual and getting more than enough pics to give oneself a superior probability that a person or two will hit the mark.


In advance of heading out in lookup of a storm, you will require the adhering to tools:

Electronic SLR – Compact cameras react far too gradually and really don’t give you sufficient management around their configurations, generating a DSLR a ought to for lightning photography.

Durable tripod – You will be employing very long exposures (most likely 30 seconds or additional), so some form of camera support is crucial.

Cable/remote release – Pressing the shutter button by hand will cause vibrations which can result in a blurry image. A cable or remote shutter launch will do away with this problem.

Lens – Lightning can be photographed making use of nearly any focal duration lens, but a huge angle zoom (around 28-150mm) presents a very good array of alternatives. Make certain the lens has a switch to place it into guide target mode, as you are going to be utilizing that to lock the concentrating at infinity.


You want to situation you close to 6 to 10 miles away from the storm. Getting nearer can be harmful, and would make it complicated to shoot the lightning efficiently. Placing up any even more away can guide to the strikes appearing also modest or dull in the final image.

Lighting near a tower

6 to 10 miles is the ideal length from the storm. Impression by Anton Bogomolov.

The simplest way to judge how much away you are is to rely the time involving a lightning bolt and the crack of thunder. At a length of 6 miles this time is 30 seconds.

Consider to posture you at proper angles to the storm so that it moves across your area of view instead than in the direction of or away from you. This is safer and retains the storm in check out for longer, offering you a far better possibility of getting some great pics..

If possible, stay beneath the cover of a setting up or overhang. This will continue to keep you and your products dry if you get hit by a sudden downpour.

For basic safety, really don’t stand inside 50 ft of any tall objects like trees, overhead cables, or metallic poles. Likewise, will not use an umbrella. If taking pictures from a distance considerably less than 6 miles, it is really finest to do so from inside of a setting up or auto.


A lightning bolt lasts just a portion of a next, and I applied to question how photographers and their cameras could react swiftly sufficient to seize them. As it turns out, they are not able to. However, each and every first strike is closely adopted by a sequence of secondary bolts, and it is these you capture.

Lightning striking a house

Lightning photography relies a lot on luck, but with persistence and persistence you can seize some extraordinary pics. Impression by Pablo Salto-Weis Azevedo.

Get started by location up your digital camera on its tripod and connecting the cable/remote launch. View the storm for a few minutes and note where most of the action is taking spot, and which course the storm is transferring.

Purpose your camera at the level with most lightning bolts, or a bit forward so that you can comply with its movement. Searching by way of the viewfinder, pick a focal size that incorporates the lightning in the body and which offers a satisfying composition.

Applying both automated or handbook focusing, concentration on one thing in the far distance. If your lens is marked with an “infinity” aim distance, you can use that. When you happen to be happy with the focusing, change the lens to guide manner. This will end the camera seeking to change the aim length, and also speed up the camera’s response time when you push the shutter button.

Up coming, you have to be individual. Sit with your finger on the cable release and check out the sky meticulously. Press the launch as before long as you see a bolt of lightning, and with a bit of luck you may capture some of the secondary lightning strikes in your picture.

Photographing Lightning at Night time

Nighttime lightning photography is the easiest type, and the ideal one particular to try if you’ve got never ever experimented with it in advance of.

Lightning over Sydney Harbour

Lightning is much easier to photograph at night time, and can develop some really atmospheric photographs. Impression by Ben Bishop.

Put your digital camera into Bulb manner (typically marked with a “B”). In this manner, the shutter will remain open up for as extensive as you’ve got bought your finger on the button/release. Use a lower ISO (100-200) and decide on an aperture of around f/5.6 to get started with.

When you see a lightning strike, press and keep the launch button to open up the shutter. Maintain your finger down right until you have observed several bolts flash across the frame, and then release it. When shooting at night time there’s significantly less probability of overexposing, so you can leave the shutter open for anything up to about 2 minutes. All-around 30 seconds commonly operates properly.

After you’ve acquired a couple shots, look at them in detail on your camera’s Liquid crystal display screen. If they’re much too dark check out a wider aperture, for a longer time exposure time, or bigger ISO location. Do the opposite if your photographs are much too mild.

Also look out for blurring caused by the clouds moving across the sky, which is particularly typical on windy evenings. If ths occurs, cut down your exposure time. You might also require to restrict your publicity time if you happen to be shooting close to a town, to avoid light air pollution ruining the photo.

Daytime Lightning Photography

Having photos of lightning in the working day is a lot more challenging than at night, due to the fact you also need to have to make certain that the bordering surroundings is very well exposed.

Lighting over a field

Photographing lightning in the day is tougher than at night time. Graphic by Ken.

Place your digital camera into shutter precedence manner. Find a shutter velocity of 1/15 to 1/4 of a 2nd and established the ISO as low as it’ll go (100-200). Choose numerous exam photographs of the scenery, examining each individual a person and changing your shutter velocity till the scene is adequately uncovered.

Bear in brain that the speedier the shutter pace, the harder it will be to seize the lightning, so you really don’t want to increase it as well a great deal. Employing a polarising or ND filter will cut down the exposure by 1 to 3 stops, allowing for you to use a slower shutter velocity.

At the time you have found the right configurations to expose your scene adequately, abide by the similar approach as previously mentioned, ready for a bolt of lightning and then opening the shutter. The most important difference concerning this and nighttime photography is the substantially shorter exposure time. This will make capturing a great lightning bolt far more of a hit-and-miss out on affair, but preserve persisting and you’ll get just one inevitably.

Automated Lightning Triggers

You can absolutely automate your lightning photography employing a lightning result in. This is a sensor which matches into your camera’s sizzling shoe and plugs into the cable release socket. When it detects a flash in the sky, it fires the shutter for you.

Computerized triggers do an exceptional occupation but they’re high priced, so they are really only for people today who are pretty serious about their lightning photography. The sector leader is the Stepping Stone Lightning Set off.

Lightning photography is much from quick, necessitating a whole lot of endurance and a wholesome dose of very good luck. The earlier mentioned guidelines will assist you be geared up future time a storm arrives around, and give you a good opportunity of snapping some great photos.