Monday, June 20, 2011

Lightning Photography Tips: Taking Awesome Lightning Photos

Lightning Photography Tips: Taking Awesome Lightning Photos

Lightning photography tips can help you prepare for that perfect storm, and keep your equipment and yourself safe at the same time. In locations all over the world photographers rush out of their homes to snap some reverent shots of mother- nature’s fury when it happens. It’s a dangerous hobby, and can lead to broken equipment, so it’s good to know what’s waiting for you before you go.


A striking image of lightning over land by photographer MaxinAus

Preparing For a Lightning Shoot

If you happen to be in an area when lightning photography tips will come in handy on your travels – then take down some of these key points.

Finding a Safe Location – Photographers getting struck by lightning is rare, but it doesn’t hurt to follow these simple rules. Stand in the open on level ground, and a fair distance from buildings, power lines, fences, trees or on a hill. Lightning is also attracted to water, so steer clear of any rivers or lakes in the area.

Avoiding The Storm – It’s better to photograph lightning from a distance, or in a location where it isn’t raining. Rain can seep into your camera and debris can scratch your lens, both leading to the same thing – you having to buy a new camera. If you have to go out in the rain, use a camera cover, or a simple plastic bag to keep your camera dry.

Bad Weather Composition – If you’re out in the storm and the wind and rain are pelting you, take a few minutes to check that your composition is good, and that you are properly framing your shots. It’s easy to be distracted or overwhelmed by a bad storm, and end up with bad lightning photos.

Keep an Eye on The Weather – If you know a storm is coming, and prepare for a lightning shoot in advance, your chances of taking great photos drastically improve. Lightning photography tips like this one are understated, but they make all the difference, especially in harsh weather conditions.

Taking Excellent Lightning Photos

When you are forced to take photos in a storm, simple processes like tripod set up, and reducing camera shake – become a challenge. Photographers always come up with inventive ways to solve these problems, by keeping a roll of tape around for extra weight or stabilization.

Your Tripod – Set up your tripod on level ground, and bring along a remote release if you can. It’s remarkably simple to get blurry lightning photos because of climate interference, or manually pressing the shutter open. Lightning photography tips like this one will reduce camera vibrations.

Autofocus and Flash – The first thing you should do is turn off autofocus, so that your wide angle lens doesn’t try and find a subject far off in the distance. Keep your flash off as well, its not going to help you at this great distance.


Stirring imagery by photographer Friday the 13th.

[Click here to learn amazing trick photpgaphy from a pro]

Aperture Priority – Set your camera to AV mode, or aperture priority mode. This will make each photo as sharp as possible, especially when you’re shooting in burst mode. Your shutter speed will have to be set fairly high, or you’ll risk missing those bright strikes you want.

RAW Format – Always shoot in RAW mode, for better color in your images. You can also set your camera to ‘bulb’ mode, which is a manual setting on your DSLR camera. It will help you regulate your shutter speed, to capture striking shots for exposures a little longer than normal.

ISO Settings – With your tripod on hand, you only need a low ISO setting to shoot great lightning photographs. A setting of 50 or 100 ISO is perfect. Lightning photography tips, like keeping your ISO low, will help you produce sharp, clear images.

Composing and Framing Lightning in Photos

If there are other elements in your pictures, you can use a subject in your foreground to properly frame your image. But what happens when it’s just you and the sky? Take note of interesting cloud formations and zoom in for a powerful single strike shot. You should also be aware of the exact locations the lightning is coming from, so that you can capture ‘the branch effect’ with wide angle landscape shots.

You won’t be able to control where the next strike is going to hit, so you’ll have to be patient. Having a quick shutter speed will help you capture those fleeting flashes of lightning – the trick is to keep shooting for as long as you can. These lightning photography tips will prepare you for photography in the storm. Obviously if you’re in a city, the rules change, and it gives you some interesting framing options with lightning above cityscapes.

Your goal is to keep your equipment dry, and to play around with your settings. Higher ISO’s for example, will make the lightning appear much brighter – which could be very rewarding in a well framed image. Like all new ways to capture images, these lightning photography tips are just the beginning. Keep working on your style, and don’t be afraid to try new things in the storm. 

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