How To Photograph Lightning

When it comes to photographing some of nature’s most impressive moments, there’s no doubt that capturing the perfect lightning shot can be difficult for many different reasons, but the reason why it’s truly so difficult is because of the speed at which it strikes. 

How To Photograph Lightning

In this guide, we’ll provide you with everything you need to know about lightning and how to photograph it, including the equipment you’ll need, how to pick the right location, the settings you’ll need to adjust, and the composition points you’ll need to consider too. 

So, if you’re seeking one of the most rewarding shots in all of photography, then check out this guide below! 


The biggest way to increase the risk of being struck by lightning during an electrical storm is simply to be outside. Of course, if you’re attempting to photograph lightning, then chances are you’re already outside, but there are other ways that you can keep yourself safe. 

Here are some things to keep in mind, which will help to ensure your safety during a lightning storm: 

  • Keep away from high ground
  • Try to stay away from open spaces
  • Avoid electronics and metals
  • Stay away from trees
  • Stay away from water
  • Keep away from other people, maintaining a 15-foot distance at all times
  • Avoid lying down
  • Rubber-soled shoes aren’t going to protect you 

An important piece of information is that you can always tell when lightning is due to strike, as the static electricity will cause the hair on your body to stand on end.

If you’re left looking for a last resort, then you’ll need to crouch, resting on the balls of your feet, and placing your feet together, and covering your ears by cupping each hand over them.

Equipment Needed

So, now that you’re away from what you should avoid doing while trying to photograph lightning if you’re still looking to risk it all for the shot, then you’ll also need to ensure that you have the right equipment for the task. 

Of course, you’ll first need either a mirrorless or a DSLR camera, as well as a compatible tripod too, because even the smallest shake of the hand can knock your camera off focus.

Some people also decide to choose a tripod with a wireless remote to avoid touching the camera as a result of this. 

If the only camera you have is a point-and-shoot, then you’re going to want to make sure that you’re at least able to adjust the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture. 

A zoom lens will provide you with the most versatility, as lightning storms can move fast, and you don’t want to lose the shot just because it’s moved too far away. 

For those who want their shots to be especially imposing, then be sure to use a wide-angle lens, which will allow you to pack plenty of scenery into the shot too. 

A large jacket is always a great idea, as you’ll need to keep yourself as dry as possible if it’s raining, and you’ll also want to provide your camera with a waterproof cover too, and be sure to bring some lens wipes as well. 

Finally, if you plan on making lightning photography a regular thing, then why not opt for a camera trigger?

These accessories connect to your camera and will cause it to take pictures as soon as it detects a flash of lightning, which means that you can shelter while it continues to take photos. 

Best Locations

How To Photograph Lightning

Finding a good location for photographing lightning is one of the easiest parts, but it’s a much better idea to do it ahead of time, rather than during the storm itself. 

You’ll want to find a couple of locations that provide you with a great view of the sky, but also provide you with plenty of detail in the foreground, which will look great during the darker light. 

You’ll also need to consider whether or not you want to photograph during the day or at night.

Photographing at night is considerably easy due to the contrast between the dark sky and the bright lightning, so this is best for beginners, but it also means that you might not be able to enter your desired location if it closes for the night.

Recommend Settings For Photographing Lightning

With the storm on the way, once you’ve arrived at your desired location, it’s time to adjust your settings ready for the perfect shot. 

This can take around 30 minutes in total, so be sure to be as quick as possible so that you don’t miss the lightning. 

  • Focus: Turn on manual focusing, and test the focus on the horizon by taking a shot and ensuring it is clear and crisp. 
  • Camera ISO: You want your ISO to be as low as possible, which is around 64 to 200 depending on the camera. So adjust to “base”, and you should be fine.
  • Full Manual Mode: Set your camera to be fully manual, as the automatic functions of the camera when lightning strikes might ruin the shot. 
  • Shutter Speed: Trying to decide a shutter speed is hard. A longer shutter speed, such as somewhere between 5 and 30 seconds, will provide you with an increased likelihood of capturing lightning, but it might not provide you with the same drama as a shorter shutter speed due to the brightness. 
  • Lens Aperture: If there is nothing in the foreground of your shots, then try an aperture of f/5.6, or adjust to f/8 or smaller if you find your shots are too overexposed. 
  • Lightning Trigger: Although expensive, these are great and will begin the exposure as soon as it detects the lightning strikes, so use one if you can. 

Remember to always use your LCD to check your shots, and adjust your settings accordingly if it hasn’t worked out the first time around. Photographing lightning is difficult, so it might take a few attempts to get it right! 

Final Thoughts

We hope that you’ve found this guide to photographing lightning helpful and that you get to try it out for yourself sometime soon. Good luck! 

Laura McNeill
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