How to capture Lightning

March 07, 2016  •  2 Comments

How-to capture lightning!
(Not in a bottle)
 


 

I'll let you in on a little secret, there is a good deal of luck involved! But after you're finished reading this article, you'll only need the luck part as you're camera settings will be spot on ready to capture some amazing lightning pictures.
 

Gear List:
 

  • Stable Tripod
     
  • Any camera with a manual mode and manual focus
     
  • Wide Angle to short telephoto lens (kit lens will do)
     
  • Remote Shutter release
     
  • Patience
     

Shutter Speed (30 Sec.)
 

Let us assume that you nor I can snap a photo with a similar reaction time as the speed of light. In order to increase your chances of successfully getting a good shot we start with our shutter speed. Most camera's have a maximum shutter open length of 30 seconds (unless you use bulb). This is ideal as it gives us a longer window to actually see lightning.
 

Focus (Manual to Infinity)
 

Be sure to turn off auto focus. A lot of lens' have indicators to show focus, use the manual focus ring to focus to Infinity. Its the two circle loop inside the readout. Be careful as not to focus beyond Infinity as this could product blurry results. If you don't have indicators on your lens, go into a live view mode and pick a light far off in the distance and manually set focus on this, you may need to move the camera to do so.
 

ISO (100 or Camera's base ISO)
 

This is important so you do not get blown out pictures. Since we are using a shutter speed of 30 seconds, this allows the camera to grab a lot of light over time. By using 100 ISO we are basically limiting how much light its going to capture in that 30 seconds to only very bright light (lightning). Two major bonuses from using the base ISO is that we will be getting the best dynamic range and tonal quality your camera can provide as well as limiting the amount of noise the sensor will create.
 

Aperture (f/5 - f/7)
 

This is the part that tricks most people! You don't want to go higher than F11 for sure and I suggest being in the f/5 to f/7 range for full frame cameras and f/2.8-f/4 range for crop sensor cameras. Why Nic WHY? I thought low f-stop numbers create bokeh and depth of field ? The trick is really the farther away your subject (in this case its Infinity) the more depth of field we get. Its the same reason astrophotography is shot at low f-stop. Using my recommended f-stop settings will result in very crisp shots.
 

White Balance (Tungsten)
 

Again a stolen tip from Astrophotography. Set your camera to Tungsten white balance. Sometimes this needs tweaking but if you're shooting in RAW (recommended), this won't be an issue.
 


 

I hope this helps! Leave me a message in the comments if you have any questions or feedback!
 



Comments

Adam(non-registered)
Nice concise tips! Can't wait to put this into practice. Thanks
pro(non-registered)
some pro stuff
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