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How To Take a Photograph Of Lightning - An Amateur Guide

Updated on April 21, 2011

Capturing a lightning strike on camera is no easy feat. So how exactly can you take a photo of lightning without using expensive, professional equipment? Well in this article we will look at exactly how this can be done by an amateur photographer. This is a simple guide on how to get pictures or photographs of lightning strikes. You won’t need any fancy equipment or any professional photography skills, you just need to find a storm.

Capturing a bolt of lightning on camera really is something very special. When a storm lights up the sky it creates a rare beauty that is hard to find anywhere else in nature. There are some truly stunning photographs out there where a professional has managed to capture a bolt of lightning in full flow, but how can us mere mortals hope to capture such a stunning image? Do we just stand in the rain and click every time we see a flash? Or is there a better way of capturing a lightning strike?

Taking A Photo Of Lightning

 

The professionals tend to use state of the art technology to capture a lightning strike. However there is a very simple way to take a picture of a bolt of lightning with a simple digital camera. Basically, you cheat. You will see some pictures on this page that I have taken using my camera, these were all taken using this simple method that I am about to reveal to you now.

Quite simply, to take a picture of a bolt of lightning, you don’t take a picture at all. You take a video. With a basic camera the chances of capturing a flash of lightning are very slim. It can be done and if you do use this method you may well get some stunning shots. But if you simply video the storm then your chances of getting a shot of the lightning are significantly increased.

So first of all you need to work out exactly where the lightning is going to strike. To do this simply watch where strikes are occurring and then take into account the direction the clouds are moving. Although they say lightning never strikes the same place twice, you will find that the strikes tend to come from the same areas within the storm cloud. When you have decided where the lightning will strike, simply point your camera and start filming.

Depending upon how frequent the lightning is occurring you may want to just leave your camera running and film various strikes over a period of time. If the lightning is only happening every few minutes then you may want to film a series of shorter clips. The danger here though is that you may miss a strike. Either way, the key to filming lightning is patience, sometimes you will find you miss the strike as it is out of shot, don’t panic, sooner or later you will get a strike in view and capture it on film.

Original Lightning Video

From Video To Picture

 

When you have your video of the lightning it is time to convert it into a still picture. This is a very simple process. Simply upload your video onto your computer and then view it in a media player. When the lightning strikes simply hit pause. Many media players have the option of skipping forward and back a frame at a time, so skip about until you get the best possible view of the lightning bolt. Then simply take a snapshot of the image. Most media players have an option for this, then the file will be saved onto your computer and you can go and view it there.

Often when you are reviewing your video you will be able to see a few different frames where the lightning moves down or across the sky, there is often one frame where the lightning is at it’s brightest and most impressive. But sometimes you will find that some of the earlier flashes in the sequence are the most interesting. Sometimes you can get a few different images of the same lightning strike, play around and experiment and you should come up with some beautiful shots.

The only downside to getting a photograph of lighting in this manner is that the image quality will not be as high as if you were taking a standard photograph. However, as you can see by the images on this page you can still often get a very nice shot of a flash of lightning.

Without Using Video

 

If you don’t have the option of videoing a storm or maybe you simply want a better quality of image then you can always revert to the method of aiming and snapping. With the invent of the digital camera it is now possible to take several shots and then simply delete them. So there is no worry about wasting film. Again as described earlier the key is to discern where the lightning is going to strike. If you can do this you have a chance of getting a shot of the lightning.

If you have very fast reactions it is possible to simply click when you see a flash, however some cameras have a slight delay when you are taking a picture. If this is the case then you are wasting your time if you are trying this method. If you are in a major storm and there are lightning flashes every few seconds, then simply pointing and clicking as often as you can is the best method. Here you are really relying purely on luck, but if you do time it just right then you should get a truly stunning image. Some digital camera have a setting where the camera will take a succession of pictures for you, this is sometimes called image burst, so this is a good time to make use of this setting.

 

Whatever method you use to take a photograph of lightning you will find it a very rewarding experience. You may sometimes come away from a storm empty handed, but when you do get that perfect shot, all your hard work will have been worth it. Capturing a lightning strike on camera really is a very special feeling and thanks to these simple methods, it is something that each and every one of us is capable of.

 

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    • Maggie.L profile image

      Maggie.L 7 years ago from UK

      A very informative and well explained hub. I love the photos too.

    • Ibrahim K. Shafin profile image

      Ibrahim Kamrul Shafin 7 years ago from Dhaka, Bangladesh & Washington DC, USA

      Very Interesting..Wow A very good concept...

    • eshwar_1989 profile image

      eshwar_1989 7 years ago from India

      I never knew it's this easy capturing the wrath of gods. This is just awesome stuff Andy. Keep it coming :)

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 7 years ago from San Francisco

      I had always wondered how many photographers go about this. Great Hub!

    • Abie Taylor profile image

      Abie Taylor 7 years ago from Wakefield, United Kingdom

      Great hub! Will come in handy :)

    • Phillbert profile image

      Phillip Drayer Duncan 7 years ago from The Ozarks

      Very informative and very cool!

    • Laura du Toit profile image

      Laura du Toit 7 years ago from South Africa

      Very interesting hub with great information and beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing these tips!

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