Sunday, 20 July 2014

How To Photograph Lightning

To photograph lightning you need to set the camera up to expose for no more than about 30 seconds and ideally you need a tripod and a remote control shutter release. If you do not own a remote shutter release you can set your camera to self timer (2 second delay) which will open your shutter 2 seconds after you press the shutter release button and will avoid camera movement during exposure. You need to position your camera in a dark place pointing towards the lightning, and then when you intuitively feel like a bolt of lightning is eminent, open the shutter.... if you are lucky and the lightning happens for you... you need to close the shutter as soon as possible to avoid light pollution from further lightning, which can over expose your shot. I aim for around 15 to 30 seconds exposure at around f5.6 and ISO 400 but often need to adjust these depending on the intensity of the storm and how far away it is. 

If you use either your cameras "Bulb" or "Time" setting you can open the shutter by pressing the shutter button and it will close when you release the button, or next time press the button in the case of "Time". This removes the need to set the shutter speed and you can expose your photograph intuitively or even count a number of seconds until you close it again.

If you do not move your camera when taking photos, you can also combine multiple shots post production, with Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom, which can create a dramatic affect. If you do not get your perfect lightning photo first time, be patient... it may take you several attempts to get the shot you are happy with.

NOTE : Do not stand outside in a lightning storm! Not only are you at risk of being struck by lightning but your equipment might get wet too. Ideally, you will want to wait until the storm passes and then go somewhere high up and photograph it from a distance, for the widest angle possible. 

These are just guidelines of course and it is up to you to be creative and exercise caution.

Good luck and have fun but above all BE SAFE.

My first attempts at photographing lightning storms
(click images to enlarge).

Copyrights © Matt Blythe 2014.