How To do Lightning Photography

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Lightning bolts striking

It was mid summer when I planned to shoot the Milky Way in all its majestic perfection during a night without Moon, but as often happens in a mountain range during the Summer season, the weather can change your programs suddenly. Then, instead of a perfect clear sky with its Milky Way on the background we faced a classic seasonal thunder storm.

But… Why waste the opportunity to make some photos?

Lightning strike 1

Lightning strike 2

Lightning strike 3


The question that my followers are asking each time I show the
photos is “HOW those shots are made”.

Well, it is not difficult as it seems, just you must be really quick in pressing the shutter button once you see the lightning striking from the sky! Impossible? I agree, so I will explain here the completely manual technique I used to do the shots.

Gear you need:

  • A Sturdy tripod
  • A BULB mode capable camera (almost all DSLR can do that)
  • A Wideangle lens (a 24mm is enough, but wider is better)
  • A Remote control, ora release cable, but a remote control is easier to find
  • A Timer (usually the one on the iPhone is ok)

That’s all you need

How? Here it comes:

Mount the camera on the tripod and be sure to obtain the maximum stability available, then install the remote control, you must be able to activate and deactivate the shutter when you want to do so.

Turn your camera in Manual Mode, M that way you will be able to tune all the parameters according to what I will explain here.

Set the exposure time of the camera in BULB mode: this means that the shutter will be released when you decide to do so, and not the camera timer, that way your shoot can be prolonged more than the usual 30 secs.

Set your aperture to two stops over the minimum aperture, in order to achieve more sharpness and depth of field.

Switch your lens and camera autofocus to Manual mode, NOT auto.

Switch your stabilizer OFF, You are on a tripod.

Ok, now we are all set
HEREbegins the part where a little focusing skill is needed.
Find a FAR luminous steady point on the landscape, a public light, a city, anything then turn the focus wheel until you see it perfectly sharp. Another way, easier, is to use the mode which is called “Live View” or focusing the image through the screen of the camera. For this shots I used the following trick: once switched to Live View, I zoomed on a little light on the far side of the horizon, then I focused my lens on that one until I’ve seen it perfectly sharp on my screen, then I turned OFF the Live View. About the ISO, start with a low value like 100 or 200 and then tune it according to the luminosity you want to achieve in your shot.

All done
Now we are set and ready, we just need to wait for a lightning that strikes, once it happens, start your timer and stop it when you see the next lightning. In my case the time was around 2 almost 3 minutes between a lightning and the next one.
Now after the lightning struck, wait half the time you measured between the two strikes and then press the shutter release, your DSLR will start to gather the light and build a long exposition night photo, once you will see the next lightning wait some more seconds hoping that a second or a third one hits the ground, then release the shutter again, and check your photo: if everything has gone correctly you should have a nice lightning photo in your camera.

About the post production
It is all up to you and what to choose, personally I like warm tones as well saturated colors then just raise a little the saturation and the vibrance parameters.

2017-01-18T15:15:56+00:00 Monday, 28 November, 2016|Fotografia, News, Tecnica|2 Comments

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Viaggiatore, fotografo, appassionato di tecnologia, libero pensatore. Il resto, lo trovate qua : About ME


  1. NameiredRaquel 28/11/2016 at 16:13

    I will try it.

    • Riccardo Mantero 28/11/2016 at 16:17

      Great! Looking forward to see the results!

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