Lightning Photography

I’ve found lightning photography very amusing. You show a friend a photo and they can’t get over how you managed to be fast enough to click the shutter right when you saw the lighting bolt. It doesn’t work that way at all and it’s incredibly easy to do and an easy way to capture a dramatic and exciting photograph.

dslrlightningphotographytipsISO 200
Shutter Speed: 30s
Aperture: f/22

On the luck side you need to be lucky enough to have a lightning storm in front of you and to be somewhere where you and your camera are protected. The trick is that you just need to extend out your shutter speed to increase the odds that a lightning bolt is in the photo. You’re simply taking a picture of an empty sky and hoping that a lightning bolt strikes in front of your viewfinder while the shutter is open.

Set your aperture as high as possible because you have no idea what the lightning will strike and you want a deep depth of field with everything in focus. The exposure is usually going to be pretty long, so set your ISO as low as possible also. Switch to manual mode and set your shutter speed to “bulb”.

You’ll want to be using a wired shutter release so that you’re not shaking the camera holding the shutter down. Wired shutters also usually have a feature to hold the button down for you. If you’re looking to buy one also make sure it’s compatible with your camera. One more DSLR feature you’ll want to take advantage of is to set the DSLR to shutter delay mode. Shutter delay mode moves the mirror out of the way, waits a second or two and then the shutter opens. This guarantees that the quick movement of the mirror will not shake the camera either. Then attach your DSLR camera to a tripod and you’re ready.

Now lets assume that your DSLR camera is set up and you currently have a lightning storm in the direction the lens is pointed in. The next step is to simply hold down the shutter button so that you start to take a picture of the dark boring sky in front of you. By setting the shutter speed to “bulb” the shutter will stay open as long as you’re holding down the shutter button so just keep it open until you see a lighting strike in front of the camera and then release the shutter or wait for several more strikes for a more dramatic photo. Lightning photography is that simple.

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