Photo from National Geographic

Shooting lightning seems to be an advanced skill for beginners. As long as you master the skill and practice, you will always have an excellent lightning photo that belongs to you! Let’s take a brief look at how to shoot lightning!

How to shoot lightning?

(Trick 1) Attention to Safety

To take lightning photos, the first point is to attention to safety, do not stand under the lightning range or high ground, otherwise, you will likely lose your life!

(Trick 2) Long Exposure

Lightning appears randomly and there is no rule, so it is impossible to “press the shutter when you see the lightning”. To solve this problem, we will set a long exposure:

  1. Set up a tripod
  2. Turn the camera to B shutter/T shutter in manual mode
  3. Set ISO to the lowest, such as ISO100 or 200
  4. Adjust the aperture according to the distance of the lightning. Use f/5.6 for far, f/8 for middle distance, and f/11 for near. Take a few shots and you’ll know the approximate aperture.
  5. Focus with manual focus and infinity focus
  6. When shooting, point the lens at the area where the lightning is expected (including the foreground/background), open the shutter B/T, and wait for the lightning to appear!
  7. Remember to calculate the best exposure time if there is light in the foreground/background, not too long or too short

Photo by ergates

(Trick 3) Foreground/Background

If it only contains lightning, the photo may become too monotonous. At this time, we can add a foreground or background to the photo to make it more powerful! Examples of foreground/background are streets at night, beaches, or landmarks.

(Trick 4) Adjust White Balance

Just like shooting night scenes, we can adjust the white balance to add color to the night sky. Purple, blue and other colors can add a mood to the photo. Of course, you can also go home and adjust the white balance after shooting the RAW file.

Photo by Brian @ HKG

Photo by chucksta420


(Tip 5) Multiple Exposure

If you want to shoot multiple lightning bolts into the same photo, we can use the camera’s “multiple exposure” function to expose the same photo twice, so you can shoot lightning bolts in different positions!


Lightning does not appear often. We need to pay more attention to some places that may be photographed and are safe. If lightning occurs, pick up the camera and tripod and start! Another thing is that lightning often brings rains with it. Don’t forget to take waterproof measures for the camera when shooting, and a clean moisture-proof box for maintenance afterward.

Extended Reading

  • Shooting Fantastic City-Black Card and Long Exposure Tips
  • Shop your first tripod
  • Use of composition foreground
  • Changing the Photo Atmosphere-White Balance Application Tips
  • Film Charm: Super Fun Double Exposure


Author: Alex Tam