How to Photograph Lightning - 10 Steps - B&C Camera

Some photographers seek out an electrifying photo by actually capturing lightning. You might be taking a walk on the wild side by getting a photograph of lightning. This process can also be tricky. But, if you can get a photograph of lightning, it is mesmerizing. Lightning is unpredictable and gorgeous. It offers patterns and shapes that you don't see every day. 



1. Be Safe & Cautious

Although being struck by lightning isn't a frequent occurrence, you still want to be cautious. Make sure you keep a great distance from the actual lightning strike and, of course, stay away from trees and bodies of water to decrease your chances of getting hurt.


2. Best Equipment for Getting the Perfect Shot

Ensure you get a professional-quality photo of lightning by using a good mirrorless camera or DSLR camera. Don't forget a tripod! Tripods help to make sure your shot isn't shakey. When using the tripod, you'll need a long shutter speed to help capture your lightning without a blur.

Next up, the importance of lenses. For this particular shot, many lenses will do the trick. A zoom lens is one of the better options. With this lens, you don't have to worry about getting too close to a danger zone. Another great option is a wide-angle lens to help grab the surroundings as well. 

Experiment and have fun with your lens options! You can use a long lens if you are striving for an enlarged photo with details. A fish-eye lens can help you capture something fun and funky. 

If you don't have a DSLR, then a point-and-shoot camera capable of controlling the aperture, ISO, and F-stop will also do the job. 


3. Accessorize

Want to get a perfect photo? Look into a camera remote. Even touching your camera slightly to snap that photo can create movement. Using a remote can give you a hands-free way to obtain perfection.

Another consideration is a flashlight or another source of light to help with foreground lighting.

Given rainy days bring on lightning, make sure to have a camera lens cloth with you to keep your lens dry. You can also use a rain cover to drape over your camera for protection.

There are some other products to assist with a great shot. Another accessory is a MIOPS camera trigger. This accessory helps capture photos just by sound. So, things like glass breaking, a balloon popping, and, you guessed it, lightning striking will trigger the camera. 


4. Location is Everything

Some locations offer more chances to catch a lightning storm than others. Regardless of where you live, you should be able to find a good spot. A good tip is to start scouting for locations that offer the perfect landscape for your photo. Knowing where you want to go before a storm starts will make the process easier, especially if the spots are close to home. You'll want to look for locations with beautiful scenery, somewhere that isn't your bedroom window.


5. Camera Settings to Photograph Lightning

Make sure you have ample time because you will need about a half-hour to get set up. Once your camera is on your tripod, you will want to make sure you can get the shot you want to be in focus. You will want to focus on infinity while taking a test shot. Make sure the test is clear and precise. If you aren't using a mirrorless or DSLR, always use a manual focus to get an accurate image. Everything should be manual for accuracy.

You'll need a long shutter speed to get the lightning in action, which might brighten up the foreground. If you use a short shutter speed, this will ensure the foreground stays on the darker side. A fast shutter speed will make it a bit harder to catch the actual lightning bolt.

Use an aperture of f/5 if you are shooting in an open area with nothing around you. If the photo seems overexposed, switch to an aperture of f/8 or smaller. If you're still struggling with it being overly bright, then you can opt for an ND filter. This filter will limit the amount of light reaching your camera. If anything else is in your shot, you will need to make sure you are using a small aperture for depth of field.

When setting your ISO, make sure you put it to its lowest value. Usually, this number is anywhere from 64 to 200.


6. Double Check All of Your Shots

Look over all of your shots once you feel you've captured your bolt in action. Experiment with your settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) so you can make sure you took the shot you imagined. 


7. Need More or Less light?

Don't forget to always shoot in manual mode. If you have bright objects in your viewfinder, then you'll have to readjust your exposure. Those objects have the potential of making your shot way too bright. However, it can be a catch-22. A small amount of light can cause your photo to look too dark.

Your bulb exposure can let you save an image at any time and start a new one right away. If you get lucky and have multiple lightning bolts at the same time, you have the option of picking out how many of them you want in your image to help with over or underexposed photos.


8. Composition

Remember, lightning is the subject of your photo. In your viewfinder, it should be mostly sky. Since lightning is unpredictable, make sure you compose your images wider. You can always crop out negative space later. You'd rather have to crop negative space than only get half of your lightning bolt in the shot. This is an example of why a wide-angle lens makes for a good option. 


9. What if You Only Have a Smartphone?

Smartphones are a good resource for photographers. However, when photographing something as tricky as a lightning bolt, there can be a few hurdles.  

Invest in a phone tripod or try to place your phone on a stable surface to ensure your photo isn't blurry. Most smartphones allow you to adjust the settings we talked about above, so scroll back up and utilize the same tips.


10. Ultimately, Patience is Critical.

Give yourself a break and remember you are trying to capture something from nature. Nature is unpredictable, so make sure you take a lot of photos and experiment with your settings. If you're unfamiliar with your camera, this isn't the time to play around with it. Get comfortable with your camera and its capabilities before you go out to take this shot.


Remember, practice makes perfect. We hope that these tips will help you achieve the shot of your dreams.


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