How to photograph lightning

The equipment and settings you need to capture nature's own light show.

How to photograph lightning prev next


Focus: Autofocus just doesn't cut in the dark when trying to shoot objects that aren't even there yet! Manually focus your lens to infinity. That is, pick out the most distant object and make sure it is in focus. Lightning bolts will then also appear in relatively good focus. This shot was taken with the camera’s auto focus and you can see that the bolts — not to mention the entire foreground — just don’t look crisp. Of course, there are other problems with this shot, including noticeable lens distortion and a colour cast, but in our defence, we had to race to set it up and had to guess in which direction to leave the camera pointed; the bolts were all over the place that night! This was taken at f/8, ISO 100, and we kept the shutter open for 20 seconds.

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How to photograph lightning

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