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Shooting Lightning Storms in the Day

Updated on November 7, 2012

Stormy seasons can offer photographers a great opportunity to capture some awesome shots, especially of lightning. These strikes that happen so incredibly fast can be well photographed in the night as well as the day. These daytime storm photographs can be a real treat for the hungry photographer.

Safety Comes First!

Safety comes first! Make sure that you aren’t in any high risk zone where your life may be in jeopardy. Therefore, stay away from the open and especially from under trees. Be in a sheltered zone as much as possible. In someway, you may even get to capture some interesting shots that won’t be able to capture if you are closer.

Lightning Fast or …?

There are two basic ways that you can go about taking images of lightning. One is to be lightning-fast and snap images rather wildly, even with using the burst speed of your camera. This may work to some extent, but you’re bound to fall into technical issues. Your images may appear blurry or blown-out. Not to mention you may even undergo physical fatigue because of holding your camera for long periods of time to get a good shot. This technique may work a bit better at night, but in the day due to the abundance of light you may be up for more of a challenge. Therefore, the method that is less stressful to use is that of long exposure.

Stability for Sharpness

Since you want to get sharp and nice quality images, you need to have good stability. You’re going to have to use long exposures so you’ll need to use a tripod.

Getting the Correct Exposure

There’s an abundance of light in the day, and since you’ll be using long exposures to get your shots, you just have to narrow your aperture. Using from at least f/5.8 aperture is a decent place to start. You may find that you need to go way narrower depending on the intensity of light that you are dealing with. It’s all in the ratio of balance -- slow shutter speed + smaller aperture = good exposure. That’s a generality, but that’s the picture. You can also make sure your ISO is dropped to a minimum, making sure that it’s not on AUTO.

Neutral Density Filters

Additionally, you can make use of a neutral density filter. These filters help to reduce the light, i.e. shave off a couple stops, that enters your lens regardless of what aperture you’re using. Photographer tend to use these filters in the daytime to avoid overblown skies. With it, you can have your skies in their true colors -- or as much as possible.

Stormy Compositions

Composing your stormy lightning daytime images can be a bit tricky. You’ll need to demonstrate patience in doing this as not only do you need to set all your settings in place, but you’ll need to watch what’s happening in the sky. Your anticipation will come with experience as you take your time to learn how these storms behave. Try not to get ‘trigger happy’ when you hear the thunder! Remember that you’ll hear the thunder after the lightning flashes anyway, since sound travels at a slower pace than light.


Practice your craft, and experiment with different settings and different lenses. Lastly, if you’re really serious about ‘Lightning Photography’, you may invest in a lightning trigger that is sensitive to lightning flashes and will release the shutter in time for your camera to get the shot.


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