Lightning photography 101

Impressed by great lightning photos by our followers? Want to photograph lightning yourself? Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to do it!

What you will need:

  • A camera with the option of making long exposures. Any interchangeable lens camera (DSLR or mirrorless) will have the option, many compact cameras and some phone cameras also have the option.
  • A remote trigger for the camera (or timer).
  • A tripod.
  • A thunderstorm. Preferably at night.

How to do it
Wait for a thunderstorm, preferably in the evening or during the night. Set up the camera on the tripod. First, avoid using Auto and preset scene modes. You need to be in control of the camera. Set the mode to long exposure. There are several ways about it and they may vary depending on your camera brand. One of these is M – Manual. Some cameras may have B – Bulb mode. This mode allows you to use a remote trigger to do exposures of any length. The other mode that is useful is the shutter priority mode (Tv or S). With this mode you can select the exposure time for your photo.



After you select the mode and prepare the camera, make sure the camera is level. Look through the viewfinder and make sure the horizon is level. Then focus the lens. The easiest way to do it is to set it to manual focus, and focus it on a distant light. Once you have focused, keep the lens in manual focus mode to avoid the camera refocusing. Set the aperture and ISO, depending on the distance to the thunderstorm – at a medium distance f/5.6 and ISO 400 will be a good starting point and then adjust if needed. And then, keep firing away and have fun!

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