Lightning bursts are one of the most spectacular photography events that continue to fascinate photographers from every part of the world. However, for anyone who has never tried lightning photography before, they probably have the same question on their mind every time they see a photograph of this amazing phenomenon: “Can I do it, too?”
For experts and professional lightning chaser-slash-shutterbugs, the answer is a big and resounding YES. Anyone with the right gear and the right equipment can be good at lightning photography – but it doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank and totally upgrade every item in your camera bag just to make it happen. As long as you have a digital SLR and a camera trigger, everything is possible. Not convinced yet?
Here are the steps on how to photograph lightning using DSLR and camera trigger.
1. Gather the right equipment for your lightning shoot.
What items do you need from your camera bag? Of course, your DSLR camera is on top of the list, together with a reliable lightning camera trigger that, take note, has the ability to be controlled remotely. The type of lens (wide angle lenses) is also important for this type of photo shoot.
The tripod plays a crucial role in lightning photography. Choose a heavy and stable tripod that can be sturdy and firm enough to be mounted in a windy and stormy weather.
Most importantly, you have to protect your gear from the elements. Needless to say, you’re photographing lightning bursts – events that usually occur during thunderstorms or unfriendly weather conditions.
2. Find the best location for lightning events.
If you don’t live in a city where lightning events are most likely to occur, then you’ll need to consult a weather bulletin that can tell you the nearest cities or locations for an ideal photo shoot. While some photographers can easily chase lightning storms on their own, beginners often find it challenging and intimidating to get started on their first lightning photo shoot.
The good news is, there are groups of lightning storm chasers that are at the same time, avid fans of lightning photography, who would organize events that will allow you to experience your first lightning photography with a team of experts and experienced photogs. You can always find them online, on forums and even groups in social media pages.
If you think that you can handle the challenges on your own, then you’re all set to venture into the amazing world of lightning photography.
Pro Tip: A smart camera trigger has a highly sensitive Lightning sensor that can detect nearby lightning events. Aside from using it as a versatile camera trigger device, you can also use it as a portable lightning detector. How cool is that?
ALSO READ: How to Capture Lightning Strikes
3. Set up your camera and your camera trigger unit.
Position your tripod in a stable terrain and fix your camera’s view to the direction of the horizon where lightning events are most likely to occur. Make sure to compose and include interesting elements in your composition for a more creative shot.
Allow your camera to focus on the foreground so you can take a base shot which can be used later during post-processing. Once the two basic gears are all set up, it’s time to attach your camera trigger to your camera. Double check the trigger’s mode (it should be in Lightning Mode) as well as the sensor’s sensitivity (recommended Light Sensor sensitivity is 95%).
Don’t forget to set your digital SLR to manual mode, adjust the aperture within the range of f/8 – f/11 (depending on the amount of light source available) and update the ISO to 200. While adjusting the shutter speed won’t make any difference because the camera trigger is there to do the job, it’s safe to set it to 1/125. Lastly, the focus should be set to Infinity.
4. Conduct a test shot during a lightning event.
Once you’re all set, you have to make sure that everything is working properly. A test shot will help you determine the necessary re-adjustments depending on the amount of light source you have and the type of lightning events present. Too dark means you need to adjust (increase) the ISO or widen the aperture. Too bright needs the functions to be adjusted to the opposite effects. The ideal images should be of the lightning bursts and the rest should remain dark.
During post-processing, you can use the based image you took (from Step 2) of the foreground to merge both images and create one stunning photo showing the entire landscape.
Observe if your camera takes a picture during a lightning burst. If you don’t get any reaction even with multiple lightning, it might have something to do with the sensitivity of the trigger. Increase it if so.
Conduct another test shot and if everything is finally in order, you can leave your DSLR camera and your camera trigger to finish the job. If you have a smart camera trigger, you will have the option to set the number of shots during a continuous lightning strike.
5. Know the right settings for daytime and nighttime lightning events.
Your DLSR camera’s settings, as well as the adjustments for your lightning camera trigger, will depend on the time of the day when you’re planning to capture these lightning events.
Daytime lightning events are tough but you can still get the most astounding results especially with darker and heavily clouded skies where sunlight is well-hidden. Against a dark background, lightning bolts and streaks can be easily spotted as long as you have a highly sensitive light sensor in your camera trigger.
Nighttime lightning photography is a totally different story. There are several elements that are not present during a daytime shoot that can easily require a different camera setting. Other factors include your location and how far your camera is from the lightning event.
If you are in a city where night lights often blind your camera from capturing small to medium lightning bolts, then your settings should be adjusted accordingly.
A full moon can also alter your camera settings. Moreover, the speed of lightning bursts, their duration, and their frequency should also be taken into consideration.
6. Finally, take that first perfect shot and have fun!
Now that you have everything you need, it’s time to just have fun. Break the limits of your creativity and just experiment on your own. With the right gear, the correct settings, and the perfect timing, you are on your way to mastering the art of lightning photography.
A whole new experience in lightning photography with MIOPS
A camera trigger can offer you the basic functions that you’ll need for a successful lightning photography shoot – but a smart camera trigger can offer the same features and more. Celebrate your creativity and up your game in lightning photography by choosing the right gear for lightning photography.
Related Article: How to Take the Extraordinary Lightning Photos