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How You Can Take Better Pictures of Lightning

Getting amazing shots of lightning storms often takes a lot of planning, patience, and long exposure equipment. Photographers who apply these techniques are like photographic storm chasers improving their odds of getting the best possible image at a specific location. But what if you just happen to get caught in a lightning storm while out shooting and you're not prepared?

This is often the case for me. Although I pay a lot of attention to the weather in my planning, I rarely think about photographing lightning storms until I see the first bolt. At which point I get excited and then quickly lose interest because it starts raining, I realize I don't have a tripod or cable release, and the storm moves in quickly making flash floods an issue.  This was the case just a few days ago here in Boston when a massive lightning storm moved through my area early in the morning. It put an end to the test shoot I was doing but I also left wishing I had brought a tripod or something to protect me from the rain so I could shoot the lightning that was so close.

Enter Pierre T. Lambert's newest video showing his tips for getting great lightning images at almost the same level of preparedness and conditions as my scenario. Lambert is a talented travel photographer whose YouTube channel is full of great tips and tricks for getting the most out of just about any situation you might find yourself in. This one is no different as he found himself getting stormed out on location in Utah's beautiful Zion National Park and still managing to get some excellent images from the storm using his five tricks. 

Do you have an unexpected storm story that resulted in an amazing photograph? What are your tips and tricks to getting better lighting shots?

Michael DeStefano's picture

Michael DeStefano is a commercial/editorial photographer focusing on Outdoor Lifestyle and Adventure. Based in Boston, MA he combines his passion for outdoor sports like climbing and surfing into his work. When not traveling or outdoors he is often found geeking out over new tech gadgets.

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You really do not need an expensive intervalometer. Just use a cheap cable release that can lock the shutter and use continuous shooting.

A few years ago I picked up a "Lightning Trigger" that sits on the camera cold shoe. Works remarkably well. Evidently a lightning bolt is actually 15 to 20 flashes in a single strike. The trigger reacts fast to the light of the first micro-flashes of a lightning bolt and opens the camera shutter to catch the remaining ones. The result is a photo of lightning in almost every frame. Yes it's not free. No I don't work for the company. Just saying what I like.

What is the product? Just an optical trigger or something specific for Lightning?

Mike I didn't want to post an ad here. Google Lightning Trigger Stepping Stone Products. There are others by other companies but this one I own and works perfectly.

Daytime Lightning = near impossible. There is variable ND filters involved and... just not dramatic.

Tripod, compose, Camera on MANUAL, low ISO 100-200, Cable release, stop waay down f/16+, shutter on bulb.

Try and time it best you can, but open shutter of up to 25 seconds are fine. Shoot in RAW so you can tweek the high-lites and shadows.

Bob's yer Uncle.

I've been shooting lightning for years, in daylight and at night. It's pretty easy if you use a lightning trigger. I use the Lightning Bug and it works great. Also, the buttons on the top are sealed, so water can't leak into the trigger. Most lightning triggers don't have that feature.

I have two articles on photographing lightning here www.jeffcolburn.com/articles/

Have Fun,

YouTubers have a lot of “secrets” to share... indeed.