5 Tips for Capturing Lightning on Camera

Here are my top 5 tips on how to get good photos of lighting:

  1. Shoot with long exposures on a tripod – Lightning is so quick that to try and capture it with a fast shutter speed hand held is very difficult. If you set your camera to take say a 30 second exposure (a good start point), all you need is for one strike to hit within that 30 seconds and you will be able to see it in your photo. In addition, if more than one lighting strike occurs in that 30 seconds they will all appear on your photo as if they were striking all at once.
  2. Shoot in manual mode – Your camera’s auto exposure modes will not be able to account for lightning as most of the time it is dark between strikes. You are better off using manual mode and adjusting by trial and error after reviewing the photos that you take (this is one of the advantages of digital cameras). A good start point is between f4-f8 (depending on the depth of field you require), ISO 200-800 and 30 seconds. The photo in this post was taken at f4, 30 seconds and ISO 200.
  3. Manually focus in live view on a distant light source – This is probably the hardest part; getting your lens focused to infinity so that the lighting will be sharp. The only way to do this accurately is to focus on a distant light source – in my case, Birubi surf club was behind me so I focused on that first then turned my camera to the storm.
  4. Aim the camera so the sky takes up more of the image space than the land – This is pretty self explanatory, but the reason why I recommend doing this is because we want the focus of the photo to be on the storm, not the land.
  5. Get out of the way well before the storm hits – As we all know, electrical storms are dangerous. Make sure you leave well before the storm gets to you and be especially careful if you are photographing the storm from behind as lighting can still strike in it’s path.

Birubi Storm

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