Home / News / Tagged: camera trigger for lightning photography

The Complete Guide to Lightning Types and Classifications

The Complete Guide to Lightning Types and Classifications

Lightning is one of the most astonishing natural phenomena. It’s a powerful electrical discharge that happened during rain or a thunderstorm. It looks beautiful, but it can be very dangerous occasionally. When it happens, it can heat the air to 30,000 degrees Celsius, which is five to six times hotter than the surface of the sun. Not only this, each bolt of lightning can contain up to one billion volts of electricity. Every second, around 80-90 lightning bolts strike on earth.

In this article, we’ll discuss types of lightning and how to take beautiful pictures of it.


Lightning Types and Classifications:

Negative Cloud-to-Ground Lightning:

Negative cloud-to-ground lightning is the most common lightning flash. It happens between a negatively charged thundercloud and the positively charged surface of the earth. Lightning channels usually develop from the cloud to the ground, for a fraction of a second.

This form of lightning is most common as well as most dangerous and can cause fire and property damage. It can take on many visual forms.

Ribbon lightning is a form of negative cloud-to-ground lightning, in which successive strokes are displaced from each other by wind, resulting in a broadened, ribbon-like appearance.

Bead lightning is also a form of negative cloud-to-ground lightning, where the luminosity appears to break up into a string of short, bright sections resembling a string of beads.

Negative Cloud-to-Ground Lightning:

Positive Cloud-to-Ground Lightning:

Positive cloud-to-ground lightning is the opposite of negative cloud-to-ground lightning. It happens when a positive charge builds up at the top of the cloud. It’s very rare but very deadly. Positive cloud-to-ground lightning strikes are often very bright and thunders from such lightning are very loud.

Cloud-to-Air Lightning:

It happens when the air around a positively charged cloud reaches out to the negatively charged air around it. In this lightning, the lightning bolts couldn’t reach the ground and cease in midair. It also happens during cloud-to-ground lightning in form of branches.

Positive Cloud-to-Ground Lightning

Ground-to-Cloud Lightning:

It’s an upward movement of lightning, and it can be both negative and positive in polarity. ​It usually happens near skyscrapers and very tall buildings.

Cloud-to-Air Lightning

Intra Cloud Lightning:

This is a common type of lightning, and it happens inside the same cloud which has different charges. It is easy for lightning to travel small distances between different areas of the cloud. It’s also called sheet lightning because it looks like a sheet of light in the sky.

Intra Cloud Lightning

Cloud-to-Cloud Lightning:

Cloud-to-cloud lightning is also called inter-cloud lightning. It happens when lightning strikes between two oppositely charged sections of different clouds and the strike travel in the air between them. Don’t confuse it with intra-cloud lightning, where lightning happens inside a single cloud.

Now we know about types of lightning, let’s talk about lightning photography. Lightning photography is not an easy task, as light strikes for a fraction of a second, and you don’t know when and where it’s going to happen. So, no matter how fast you click the shutter after seeing a lightning bolt, you’ll miss it for sure.

Fortunately, we have a camera gadget called MIOPS Smart+ that can take lightning photos for you with the least effort from your side. It has a lightning mode that detects the lightning and clicks the picture automatically. Now we’ll talk about how to use MIOPS Smart+ to take lightning pictures.

Find the location:

First, you need to find one or two locations for lightning photography. If you take a picture of the only sky with lightning, it won't look good. You need an interesting foreground too. So find a few places in advance that have open sky and some beautiful foreground elements like a tree or buildings or mountains. Make sure that it also has a shade for you so you can keep your camera safe from rain. Always try to avoid distractions like electric poles and wires in the frame.

Find the location

Keep an eye on the weather channel:

After finding a location, follow weather channels, so you know about the upcoming storm in advance, and you can reach the location on time. Always wear light clothes, and keep some essentials like water, snacks, coffee, a folding chair, dry clothes to wipe the camera, and something to cover you and your expensive gear.


Once you reach there, set your camera on a tripod and set the frame. A wide angle or a standard lens is ideal for lightning photography. First set the camera on manual mode, set ISO to 100, aperture to f/11, and shutter speed to 1/200. These are starting settings, and we’ll fine-tune them after taking some test shots.

Keep an eye on the weather channel

Now attach MIOPS Smart+ to the camera and attach the cable. Set the mode to “Lightning” and sensitivity to 1 or 2%. Now focus on the foreground and set the camera to manual focus. Since we are using a wide-angle lens and narrow aperture, the sky will be in focus automatically. If the foreground element is very near to the camera, set focus to the center of the foreground and sky.



Once everything is set up, just sit and wait for the lightning bolt. When it happens, MIOPS Smart+ will trigger the camera and take the picture. If it’s not happening, increase the sensitivity a bit. When you get your first shot, take a look, and now we’ll modify the camera settings accordingly. We’ll check exposure for both lightning and foreground.


If lightning is very bright, narrow down the aperture to f/16. If lightning is underexposed, we can either open the aperture or increase the ISO. In such a case, my preference would be to increase ISO, as opening up the aperture will result in a shallow depth of field.

Lightning Types and Classifications

If the foreground element is underexposed, decrease the shutter speed to 1/100 or lower. In case of overexposed foreground, increase shutter speed accordingly. Playing with shutter speed will not affect lightning, as it strikes for a fraction of a second.

Once everything is set, enjoy your coffee with a wonderful view while the MIOPS trigger will click pictures for you. After a few shots, you may change the frame for different pictures. You may also stack multiple images in post-processing to show multiple lightning in a single shot.

MIOPS Smart+ will trigger the camera and take the picture

Now you know everything about lightning and how to shoot it. Be prepared and get some outstanding shots during the next thunderstorm. All the best.​

About the Author

Ramakant Sharda is an author, iOS App publisher, passionate photographer and a MIOPS Ambassador based in the beautiful “Pink City” of India, known as Jaipur. His work has been published in various magazines, newspapers, and blogs. He has published three Coffee Table Books, he writes about photography and also teaches photography in his workshops. Check out his website http://ClickManic.com to see the masterpieces created by him or download his free app for iPhone and iPad “30 Days to an Ace Photographer“.

Long Exposure Lightning Photography

Long Exposure Lightning Photography

Lightning Photography and Long Exposure 

Photographing lightning can be a bit tricky. It is a mix of managing available light that may or may not be abundant, while anticipating a drastic change in brightness when a lightning flash occurs. This is all happening while facing the challenge of anticipating when and where the lightning will strike. There are a multitude of factors that govern the possibility of capturing lightning in a photograph and your success in doing so depends on preparation, flexibility, and sheer luck. 


To be able to capture lightning, the range of exposure settings applicable is much more narrow than other kinds of photography outdoors. Exposures would have to be longer than usual but not too long to the extent that surrounding ambient luminosity may cancel out the image of the lightning strike. At night, lightning strikes become easily visible because of how bright they can get compared to the luminosity of the sky. However, during the day, this can be a bit harder and daytime lightning photography settings often have limitations due to the fact that the abundance of ambient light might not result in enough contrast to show the difference of lightning strikes and nearby illuminated clouds. That is why the workflow of photographing lightning can have differences between doing it at night when it is dark, and during the day when light is abundant. 

Lightning Photography and Long Exposure

Essential Gear for Lightning Photography

To capture lightning, you would want a camera that can easily be adjusted to adapt to the situation. Shooting lightning means having to deal with a lot of changing environmental factors and on top of having good resolution and the right kind of focal length, it is important that the camera has manual functions that will give you more flexibility. 


A non-negotiable accessory to have is a good and sturdy tripod. It’s not enough to simply have something that the camera can stand on. Shooting lightning storms means having to withstand wind and even possibly rain and this is not just for the longevity of your equipment but also because shooting long exposures can ultimately be ruined by a single shake from the tripod being blown by the wind. 

Lightning Trigger Smart+

To make the process more efficient and fool proof, a smart camera trigger makes all the difference. Shooting lightning has specific settings that have to be achieved not just to get a clear photograph but also to get the best detailed shot of the lightning strike you are capturing. Using a very capable camera trigger, specifically one that has a lightning sensor, can give you the assurance of getting the flashes of lightning for the best results but also lessen the amount of wasted exposures. The MIOPS Smart+ is both an intervalometer and a lightning photography trigger. Along with other features such as a sound trigger, laser sensor trigger, and a wireless camera remote, the Smart+ is the most versatile photography tool for lightning photography, time-lapse, landscape photography, and many more.

Lightning Photography at Night

Doing lightning photography during the night can be considered a simpler endeavor than doing so during the day. This is simply because of the added limitation of exposure when there is a lot of ambient light around. At night, since it is much darker, it is easier and even a necessity to do long exposures to be able to get enough brightness in your photos. To be able to achieve the same lengths of exposure during the day would mean having to use extra tools. 

Lightning Photography at Night

Long exposure is an almost absolute necessity in photographing lightning. Lightning strikes are generally very elusive and hard to predict because they only last for fractions of a second. The general principle of being able to capture them even when you can’t predict when they will strike is simply by doing long exposures and hoping that a few lightning strikes will occur within your frame during the duration of the shot. Kind of like casting a much larger net to capture a very fast moving fish. However, lengthening your exposures also have a limit because even though the background (the sky) is darker at night, an exposure that is too long can make way for more light to illuminate the dark areas which will in turn cancel out the details of the lightning strike. This is particularly true especially when the lightning strikes happen early in the duration of exposure. 

There are a couple of ways to “catch” lightning as it happens in front of your camera. The first process is pretty much like casting a net, and the other one is aiming with precision. The net method is simply shooting with an intervalometer to be able to automate the process of shooting consecutive exposures. On a night when there are a lot of lightning activity happening around, you can simply point your camera to the direction of where the lightning is happening and shoot consecutive exposures until the storm ends. Doing this will give you hundreds or even thousands of consecutive exposures never missing a single second. Within these exposures, only a fraction will have images of lightning on them and that number will increase depending on how frequent the lightning strikes were. In any case, it is expected that you will get a lot of empty exposures where lightning didn’t happen. 

Lightning Photography at Night 2

The other method is using a dedicated lightning photography trigger. This handy device shifts your workflow from a time and storage space consuming process to a more precise process that will save you from a lot of wasted exposures. A typical lightning photography trigger has a light sensor that aligns with the camera’s lens. This sensor is made to detect drastic changes in the light environment that would be typical of how light changes when lightning occurs. When the sensor detects a large enough change in luminosity, it triggers the camera to start an exposure. This means that photos will only be taken if and when a strong flash of light happens.

To be able to get the right exposure while also increasing your chances of capturing lightning strikes, the exposure time should be just long enough to give time for a few strikes and short enough that the details will not be cancelled out. Essentially, one can do shorter exposures and because lightning is typically bright, luminosity would not be a problem. However, doing so would also mean taking way too many consecutive exposures.

Lightning Photography at Night 3

To increase your chances of capturing lightning as well as a well balanced exposure, you can shoot with an exposure time of about 6 to 10 seconds depending on how frequent lightning strikes. If lightning is striking rather frequently, a shorter exposure is preferred as having too many strikes in one shot might cause for one strike’s brightness to cancel out the others. Aperture can be quite flexible however, the goal is to achieve a wide depth of field to make sure that both the foreground and the sky are in focus. Typically, an aperture between f/8 to f/11 should be enough. Since you are shooting with relatively prolonged exposures, there will be very little need to increase ISO and for the purpose of having as clean a shot as possible, an ISO sensitivity of 100 to 400 will be enough. 

Daytime Lightning Photography 

As mentioned earlier, photographing lightning during the day can be slightly more challenging. This is simply because the abundance of light might prevent the camera from seeing the lightning strike against a brighter background. However since lightning happens with very cloudy weather, even commonly with very thick and dark clouds, the probability of the sky being dim enough allows for lightning to be seen. 

Daytime Lightning Photography

Even with darker clouds, there will be some limitation on how much you can prolong your exposures to achieve the same lengths as shooting at night. This is where an extra tool can come in handy. By using a 2 or 3-stop neutral density filter, you can potentially extend your exposure time enough to better capture lightning strikes. Without an ND filter, even on a dark stormy day, your camera might only be able to do exposures of about 1/10 to 1/3 seconds and doing so will result in way too many images in very little time. Using an ND filter will allow you to shoot exposures of about 4 to 10 seconds depending on the situation which will give you more chances of catching the lightning strikes within the duration of time. 

When using a lightning photography trigger, you can lessen the number of wasted exposures but the limitation of ambient light will still be there. In combination, the use of an ND filter with a lightning trigger can give you better results in the pursuit of capturing elusive lightning during the day. With the said adjustment, daytime lightning photography settings will be relatively the same. The goal of shooting exposures up to 10 seconds is achieved with the use of an ND filter, at the same time, because of the abundance of light, there is more room to use even smaller apertures for wider depth of field and detail and ultimately since light is not a problem, an ISO of 100 will be enough. 

Post Production

The different approaches to photographing lightning yield multiple photographs depending on how many times lightning actually struck while you were shooting. If fortunate enough to have been shooting during a storm with a lot of pulses, one specific shoot can give you a good catalog of lightning photographs that you can either use individually or combine. The benefit of shooting continuously as the storm happens is that it will give you a good collection of images that you can later on combine to illustrate the experience of watching the thunderstorm in one single image. 

Post Production

Photographing lightning, whether simply to document and record the weather condition, or to use them as visual elements in landscape photography, is definitely worth the meticulous and lengthy shooting process. Whether during the day or at night, a lightning strike on a photograph always catches attention and conveys a dramatic mood. 

Blog Credit: Nicco Valenzuela

Nicco started his photographic journey in 2007 practicing the craft as a hobby. Currently, he shoots for various local and international architectural firms and construction companies. Out of his love for sharing his knowledge, Nicco began writing about photography and various pieces of gear.

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo: Catatumbo Lightning

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo: Catatumbo Lightning

Beginner and professional photographers who have developed a deep fascination for lightning photography understand the joys and struggles of conquering this thrilling yet challenging genre. Taking a great picture of a lightning strike is an accomplishment for any photographer, and Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela offers one of the most extraordinary locations for lightning photography.


Why do photographers love photographing lightning?

Lightning is an unpredictable subject and its unpredictability provides opportunities to capture unique images. However, the same uncertainty also presents obstacles that can only be overcome with preparation, having the right camera equipment, and most importantly, luck. 

Most importantly, lightning photographers have to find the perfect locations where they can discover lightning events for great photo opportunities. Identifying these places require good research and patience. Chasing these lightning storms also needs careful planning and attention to weather reports and the know-how to read storm maps and other lightning guide maps. 

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo

Luckily for photographers living or vacationing in Venezuela, they know exactly where to go: Lake Maracaibo. 

Venezuelan photographers and even international adventure photographers who know very well about Venezuela’s lightning storms are probably some of the luckiest lightning photographers out there!

Why is Lake Maracaibo a favorite setting for lightning photographers?

Located in the northwestern part of Venezuela, Lake Maracaibo is one of the city’s most important seaports. Its nearby metropolitan area is occupied by over 3,7000 million inhabitants. 

While the region has a lot to offer in terms of culture and traditions, its main attraction is actually one of the most unique in the world: its weather. 

Maracaibo is most popular for its lightning thunderstorms. Its nighttime thunderstorms offer a spectacular view, with 28 lightning strikes per minute, and 230 lightning strikes painting the night sky every 0.3 square miles, for 160 storm nights a year! In fact, the lightning hotspot is a Guinness World Record holder as the Lightning Capital of the World for the highest concentration of lightning strikes. 

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo

Lake Maracaibo Catatumbo lightning photography experts and enthusiasts are witnesses to the region’s perpetual lightning displays. While the view is a source of wonder and mystery for some, there is a scientific explanation for this nightly event.

How are bolts of lightning created in Maracaibo?

According to meteorologists, these exhibitions of lights are only possible because of the region’s unique geography in combination with its climate. Additionally, these displays only form at night because of the drop in temperature.  

When the cool air from the nearby Andes Mountain meets Maracaibo Lake’s warm and moist air accumulated during the day, the clash in temperature triggers the formation of lightning strikes and electrical discharges. 

The lightning display is so outstanding and constant that sailors from as far back as 1826 have used the location to navigate the seas. It is so popular that it even got special titles, such as “The Lighthouse,” “The Beacon of Maracaibo,” and “The Everlasting Storm.” 

The center of this magical light show is where Lake Maracaibo meets the Catatumbo River. This river is a favorite lightning photography spot and Catatumbo River Lightning images are some of the most popular and unique ones among the high-speed photography community.

What makes Catatumbo lightning different from other lightning events?

So what’s the big deal? Why are lightning images from Maracaibo and its neighbor river Catatumbo so different from other lightning photos taken in other locations? Make makes the Catatumbo lightning special? Why should photographing these lightning strikes be on your bucket list as a photographer?

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo 

For one, how these lightning strikes are created seems to be caused by a grand, pre-determined design. The factors are perfectly placed as if they were meant to be there. But we know how unpredictable nature is that there’s a one-in-a-million chance that the same thing can happen in other parts of the world. 

There are several factors that make these mesmerizing events take place in Catatumbo and Maracaibo. These include the local climate and the season, geographical and topographical characteristics of the region, and lastly, the levels of moisture and air in the area. 

1.  Local Climate and Seasonal Change

During the long summer days, the heat of the sun allows the water from the lake to evaporate. This moisture is boosted by the Caribbean sea’s eternally warm waters. Just the presence of moisture in the air triggers constant storms around the area.

2.  Geographic and Topographic Features

As mentioned earlier, the nearby Anders Mountain Range contributes to the unique formation of lighting above Catatumbo and Maracaibo. The mountain range runs across the river and covers three sides of the lake. This setup restricts the warm air from escaping northwards. 

3.  Imbalances of Cool Air and Warm Moisture

Then, the cool air from these ridges, especially at night when the temperature drops even lower, is blown to meet the rising warm air. This clash forms a dance that allows a beautiful formation of cumulonimbus clouds that will eventually serve as the birthplace of the much-awaited evening spectacle. 

The resulting storm cloud forms a thick and towering structure of air and moisture in the sky, providing an ideal venue for lightning formation. The imbalance of hot air and cold air, in the form of colliding warm water droplets and ice crystals, finally creates static charges. 

These static charges are so strong that they have enough power to light up hundreds of millions of lightbulbs. The same power fuels the seemingly perpetual lightning display that made this location so famous all over the world. 

Remember that these factors are so specific that these conditions are only met during specific months of the year. This leads us to the next question:

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo

When is the best time to photograph lightning in Catatumbo and Maracaibo?

According to meteorologists and experienced lightning photographers who successfully made the journey to the region, the best time to visit the location is during Venezuela’s wet season, from April to November, lasting for 140 to 160 nights annually. However, locals suggest that the best month is October. 

October is the best month to visit Catatumbo since it is when the region produces the highest concentrations and frequencies of lightning. According to records, you can observe 28 lightning events per minute during the same month.

How can MIOPS Smart+ help you capture the best photos of the Maracaibo and Catatumbo lightning strikes?


The MIOPS is a great camera trigger for both beginner and professional photographers. Smart devices add much more value to the user experience, enabling automation of detailed processes and freeing you to focus on the creative aspects of your shoot. The MIOPS Smart+ camera trigger is controlled with a user interface and has a variety of modes.

The Lightning Mode uses a light sensor to detect split-second lightning strikes and trigger the shutter automatically, so there’s no need to rely on luck for a perfectly timed shot. Using the intuitive dedicated app, you can control the MIOPS Smart+ settings from a safe distance and easily make adjustments to the light sensor’s sensitivity.

How Does MIOPS Smart+ Camera Trigger Work as Remote Trigger for Lightning Photography?

Like other smart connected devices, the MIOPS Smart+ can be controlled remotely via Bluetooth. Although the MIOPS Smart+ can also be operated as a standalone device, the MIOPS mobile app will allow you to configure your camera’s ISO, exposure value, and aperture. After reviewing each image, making adjustments to your camera settings will be quick and easy!

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo

What are the Camera Settings for Lightning Photography?

Typically, the best camera setting to use when photographing lightning is to shoot through Manual Mode. As mentioned earlier, you can use a lightning camera trigger like MIOPS Smart+ on cameras with a manual mode, so you can easily adjust your main camera settings. 

There are no fixed camera settings for events as unpredictable as lightning strikes, so make sure you know your camera well. Knowing your photography basics can help you make the right adjustments that fit your subject, background, foreground, and overall location. Trust your experience!

1.  ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed

For capturing lightning photos, start with an aperture of f/5.6 and an ISO of 100. Since you’re using a remote trigger to activate your camera’s shutter, you don’t have to worry about adjusting your shutter speed. 

Your camera settings when taking photos of lightning should depend on the available light source in the area. Remember that you are photographing the Venezuela lightning storms in Maracaibo and Catatumbo. The lightning events are consistent and endless! It means that the night sky will be as bright as day. This can present a challenge. 

When photographing lightning strikes in Lake Maracaibo and Catatumbo River, expect an extremely bright night sky. Your ISO and aperture should be adjusted to let in just enough light to capture the lightning strikes but should have the right value to not overexpose the shot. 

2.  Remote Trigger Automatic Camera Settings

However, if you’re using MIOPS Smart+ camera trigger, you don’t have to worry about starting from scratch. You don’t also have to rely on a trial-and-error method just to get the settings right. MIOPS’ intuitive sensors can help you.

 The remote camera trigger, through the MIOPS Smart+ mobile application, automatically suggests and adjusts your camera’s aperture, ISO, and exposure values, on top of other necessary settings to capture lightning events as specific as Catatumbo lightning strikes.

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo

3.  Composition and Framing

The shutter speed should also be fast enough to capture the lightning strikes that you can focus on. While you have an infinite number of chances to capture lightning photos, don’t just point your camera everywhere! 

Study the photo opportunities in front of you and find a good way to compose your shot. Add context and don’t just focus on the streaks of light. Add a portion of the storm clouds as the lightning’s point of origin. Include an area where the river or the lake meets the strike. 

How Can You Prepare for a Lightning Photo Shoot Catatumbo Lightning in Venezuela?

Just like any other lightning photography session, you have to make the necessary preparations, especially if you’re going to a location known for its extreme lightning events. Typical lightning storms are dangerous enough, so imagine the level of risks that you might face in the world-famous lightning capital. 

If you want to have the best time and capture the best lightning photos, you have to fully prepare. So what are the things that you need to do before setting out on a journey to the great Catatumbo and Maracaibo? 

Here is a three-point list that might help you get ready.

1. Plan and research the setting and weather.

Whether you’re coming from Venezuela or another part of the world, you have to carefully plan your trip to the tiniest details. The most important part, of course, is to read everything you can about the country, and most specifically, Catatumbo and Maracaibo. 

Aside from planning the trip according to the months we suggested earlier, which is from April to November, know the logistics of the trip. From transportation, accommodation, and how to get there, to local ordinances and environmental rules that you must adhere to, make sure to check them out before booking your flight.

2.  Ask the right questions from the right people.

One of the best pieces of advice that you can get from professional photographers is this: ask questions. Not just any question, though - ask the right questions. Additionally, make sure that you’re asking the right people. 

Ask photographers who have already been to the region. They might have some pro tips that can make things easier even for beginners. 

You can also go to online forums where you can find questions and answers to the most specific questions about Catatumbo lightning photography. 

You can also rely on books and news articles that talk about the region.

Lightning Photography in Venezuela's Lake Maracaibo

3.  Complete your camera equipment.

Earlier, we discussed the needed camera settings and camera accessories, like a remote camera trigger that you need to photograph lightning. 

Aside from these essentials, make sure you have a trusty tripod with you, extra batteries in case you’ll be outdoors for hours, a zoom lens and other applicable lenses, and most importantly, weather-proofing equipment to protect your camera gear.

Having reliable camera equipment and extras will help you have the time and resources to make your trip a success. Faulty equipment and low-quality gears can restrict and limit your chances of getting that once-in-a-lifetime and award-winning image. 

With your complete camera equipment and MIOPS Smart+ camera trigger’s smart and intuitive technology, trust that your preparation and everything you’ve been through to get to this record-breaking lightning hotspot will be all worth it.

Good luck and have fun!


Blog Credit: Charm Villalon

Charm is a writer and a visual artist. Her drive to share ideas and stories is evident in her background in communication arts and language studies. Years of professional experience in content creation have given her a broad proficiency with the process of engaging online communities. An appreciation for multiple languages and cultures drives her to seek out experiences and capture these moments through her writing, digital art, and photography.

Lightning Photography Tips and Unique Lightning Photo Compositions

Lightnin Photography Tips

Nature offers the most fascinating sights and sounds that only true observers can appreciate. Photographers know this too well so they venture into the outdoors to capture breathtaking and once-in-a-lifetime scenes through the lens of their camera.

One of these visual artists' and camera wielders' favorite subjects is lightning.


Why Lightning Photography is a Popular Genre

Lightning strikes are naturally-occurring phenomena that are both captivating and unpredictable. These two characteristics make them appealing to professional and beginner shutterbugs. However, their appeal and unpredictability also present risks.

Lightning strikes are naturally-occurring phenomena

Lightning is a powerful bolt of electrical discharge that cannot be tamed. They strike when there is an imbalance between the ground and the clouds. Typically, they occur between clouds, inside clouds, and between the clouds and the ground. These events happen at millisecond speed.

Thi high-speed light show presents challenges and offers opportunities to those who dare to take on this impressive photography assignment. There’s a reason why photographers hone their skills just to take their talents to the next level, a level that’s good enough to add a perfectly composed lightning photo to their portfolio.

How to Get Started with Lightning Photography

In this article, we’ll help you achieve just that: a lightning photography portfolio that showcases your abilities and skills in one of the most daunting genres of photography, high-speed lightning photography.

How to Get Started with Lightning Photography

Specifically, we’ll focus on how to take lightning photos and create unique lightning photo compositions for a one-of-a-kind and once-in-a-lifetime image.

Before we get started, let’s first look at how to set up your camera, settings recommendations, and what equipment you need to capture great lightning photos consistently.

Lightning Photography Camera Equipment, Settings, and Setup

Lightning photography is beginner-friendly. Even if you only have standard and entry-level camera equipment, you don’t have to worry. As long as you know how to use your gear and set up your equipment, you’ll be okay.

So what are the camera gear and equipment that you need to get started on your lightning photography journey? Let’s start with the basics.

1. Camera

Whether you’re using a DLSR, mirrorless camera, or point-and-shoot camera, as long as it has a Manual mode, you can use it for taking lightning photos. The question of which camera to use for lightning photography will depend on the purpose of the shoot.

Lightning Photography Camera Equipment

If you’re a beginner photographer and just want to see what you can do with your camera, you can focus more on your technique and how to adjust your camera’s settings to get the shot that you want.

However, if you want outstanding and high-definition photos of lightning, DSLRs and mirrorless cameras should be on your equipment list.

FAQ #1: Why is having a Manual Mode important when taking lightning photos?

Manual modes allow camera users to adjust their cameras according to the subject, background, and light source available.

Manual mode adjustments allow varying Aperture settings to control how much light from the lightning bolt enters the camera, ISO to adjust your camera to the light burst sensitivity and shutter speed that determines how fast your camera captures the event.

2. Tripod

Professional photographers have developed this stability, in terms of handling their camera by hand, without worrying about blurs and missed shots. However, confidence and experience may not be enough when taking lightning shots. You’re still going to need the help of your good old, and not to mention, dependable tripod. Why?

When taking good lightning photos, you’re going to shoot them in a low-lit environment. It means that the only source of light that the camera will get is the lightning strike, which is the goal. You don’t want any light pollution to ruin the exposure of your shot.

Lightning photoshoots

Since the light source is low, you’re going to need an aperture level of f/5.6 and a fast shutter speed. A fast shutter speed requires your camera to be stable, with zero shaking and vibration, or risk getting a blurry shot and missing great photo opportunities.

FAQ #2: Can you use any tripod for lightning photography?

Lightning photoshoots are done outdoors. It means you’re going to travel and probably hike to your location. Bringing a light tripod with you is practical. However, be prepared to be resourceful.

Lightning events usually happen during thunderstorms. We’re not talking about a calm night with a nice breeze. It can be a rainy evening or daytime, with relatively strong winds that could easily topple down a camera mounted on a light tripod. There are remedies to this.

Use gravity to your advantage. Attach a hook to the center pole of your tripod and hang a bag of rocks or your backpack to pull the structure down and secure it to the ground. However, remember not to overdo it. A tripod can only hold three times the weight of your camera, lens, and tripod head combined.

3. Lens

Photographers who have experience taking photos of lightning say that any lens will do. However, most of them have preferences.

Typically, you can use a mid-range zoom lens and choose between a 24-105mm lens and a 24-70mm lens. Other photographers love zoom lenses instead of the prime lens selections as the former gives them flexibility and ensures safety for capturing dangerous lightning bursts from a safe distance.

Lightning photography lenses
FAQ #3: Are wide-angle lenses good for capturing lightning photos?

A quick lightning photography tutorial Google search will give you varying opinions on this question. However, most photographers indeed like using wide-angle lenses for lightning photography as the width of the frame allows them to capture multiple lightning photos across the frame, and not rely on luck. Other lenses often used in landscape photography are also popular picks for the same reason.

4. Remote Trigger

Also known as a shutter release, a remote trigger helps you control your camera from a distance. This is helpful, especially if you’re taking photos of lightning, known to be one of the riskiest photography genres in modern photography.

A remote camera trigger ensures that you are triggering your camera’s shutter from a safe, dry, and protected distance, especially during thunderstorms where lightning events are equally captivating and powerful.

More importantly, camera triggers help you take on the challenges of high-speed photography. With a camera trigger, you’ll be fast enough to click your camera’s shutter and capture split-second lightning bolts without missing a shot!

Remote camera triggers often work wired or wirelessly. However, the latest models and brands of remote camera triggers offer more than just remotely signalling your camera to activate the shutter fast.

Lightning Photography lenses
FAQ #4: What is the best camera trigger for lightning photography?

There is a long list of lightning camera triggers in the market today. MIOPS leads the ranking as the most recommended remote trigger you can use for lightning photography.

Why is MIOPS a great camera trigger for beginner lightning photographers?

A modern camera trigger, like MIOPS SMART camera trigger, does a lot more than controlling your camera’s shutter. For one, MIOPS has a dedicated Lightning Mode that caters to the most specific high-speed settings and requirements in lightning photography.

MIOPS SMART camera trigger has a highly sensitive Light sensor that detects lightning activities on-site. This device eliminates the guesswork as it automatically triggers your shutter to take a photo whenever there’s a lightning event.

As a remote and wireless trigger that can be controlled via the smartphone, through a dedicated mobile application, you can just relax and wait in a sheltered location, and let the camera-remote trigger combination do the rest.

MIOPS’s intelligent technology also lets you control your camera through your smartphone. Through the MIOPS app, you can automatically adjust your camera’s ISO, exposure value, and aperture, and takes control of the shutter speed to deliver a perfect, blur-free lightning photo.

A remote trigger can definitely up your game in lightning photography, even with an entry-level camera!

5. Weather Proofing

Remember, your camera is not rainproof. The most beautiful lightning events come with a price: they usually happen during the harshest of weather. Weather-sealing items for your camera, therefore, should be a part of your lightning photography equipment.

Your camera and your lenses are very sensitive to moisture and condensation. They’re going to be sitting there, for hours, waiting for the best photo opportunities that nature can offer. Weather-sealing them not only protects your expensive gear. It will also give you more time to stay and take more photos, making the trip and the trouble, worth it.

Now that you’re ready with your camera equipment and how to set up your gear for a lightning shoot, it’s time to decide on the composition and how you frame your shot.

Lightning Photography Composition Ideas

Lightning Photography Composition Ideas

Planning your composition is a bit tricky when it comes to lightning photography. Aside from the fact that your subject is unpredictable, you also have to consider that you can't choose the exact location of the lightning events. You have to make do with what you have and let your creativity flow, during the shoot and the post-process.

However, we’ve asked some of the seasoned lightning photographers we know and here are several pieces of advice that they shared with us.


1. Identity interesting lightning cell areas and focus on them.

While every lightning event offers unique and unpredictable lightning bursts, you can also rely on one fact: lightning does strike the same spot twice. With this knowledge in mind, you can position your camera and point your lens towards specific sections on the horizon to catch lightning cells that seem more interesting.

These sections may not give you the same patterns but trust that they are capable of delivering the same intensity and power of that electrical current that created the previous bursts.

2. Focus on your subject and make sure they dominate the frame.

Veteran lightning photographers can spot a beginner based on how they fit the lightning strike within the frame. Most of these rookie mistakes include lightning images that have too many clouds and sky that cover a third or even half of the photo. Remember, you’re photographing lighting, not cloud-watching!

One professional advice is to make sure that your lightning bolts always originate below the top of your camera’s frame. Include just the right area of the cloud where the burst originates. It’s also crucial to know your lightning types.

3. Know the different types of lightning and capture their uniqueness.

Another beginner mistake is delivering an incomplete lightning photo because of bad composition.

For instance, some photographers accidentally or intentionally cut off the lightning pattern at the top or the bottom where it hits. For starters, capture the lightning’s point of origin to deliver a powerful portrayal of this breathtaking event.

Additionally, make sure you know your subject. There are different types of lightning, each offering colors, patterns, and intensities that make them unique.

Types of Lightning Events
A. Ribbon Lightning

Ribbon lightning is characterized by a thick, ribbon-like streak of cloud-to-ground lighting.

B.    Forked Lightning

Forked lightning is the most common, with bursts branching out and often dividing into two streaks the moment it hits the ground.

C.   Spider Lightning Lightning

Another type is spider lightning often found underneath clouds. They are identified with an oval-shaped point of origin and long, horizontal branches.

D.   Ball Lightning

Finally, the rarest lightning of all that many photographers only dream of capturing is the ball lightning. Its characteristics vary, based on descriptions of people who were lucky enough to witness this once-in-a-blue-moon event.


different types of lightning and capture

Ball lightning is a very luminous lightning event and its bolts come in red, yellow, orange, or blue. Observers say that they move up and down, have a distinct, sulphur smell before it disappears, and can explode upon contact with an object.

4. Use your surroundings and balance the frame.

Use your surroundings to your advantage to create a background and foreground that complements your subject. Capture dramatic photos of lightning on the horizon, above cityscapes and natural landscapes, such as trees and mountains.

5. Just have fun and leave room for post-processing!

Capturing lightning strikes can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. However, you don’t have to worry about perfecting this genre right away. For mistakes, missed photo opportunities, and faulty framing and composition, you can always rely on your post-processing skills. To do this, make sure to take your photos in high-resolution to give your images the flexibility and quality it needs for post-processing.

Post-processing helps you become creative in crafting a more spectacular image. You can also combine multiple lightning events in one image, to either show duration or transition.

This stage in image production also allows you to make adjustments, such as adjusting the image’s exposure, reducing noise, sharpening the images, and cropping your photos for better framing and composition.

Remember that you’re allowed to make mistakes. It’s another way to learn and hone your skills in this amazing photography genre.

Start Your Lightning Photography Journey Here

It’s easy to start your lightning photography journey, especially if you have the right camera gadgets and equipment with you. Why not try to learn more about MIOPS Camera remote trigger and see how it can help you take the first step?

Check our MIOPS Smart and our other high-speed camera gadgets here!


Blog Credit: Charm Villalon

Charm is a writer and a visual artist. Her drive to share ideas and stories is evident in her background in communication arts and language studies. Years of professional experience in content creation have given her a broad proficiency with the process of engaging online communities. An appreciation for multiple languages and cultures drives her to seek out experiences and capture these moments through her writing, digital art, and photography.

Tips You Need To Get The Best Lightning Shots

Tips You Need To Get The Best Lightning Shots

Lightning is an amazing subject to try and photograph. Dazzling. Unpredictable. Lightning can occur during any season, even winter. In fact, winter storms can produce lightning and thunder snows, so don’t stop shooting just because it’s cold outside – embrace it!

Safety comes first

Above all else, be sure to find a safe location to photograph lighting. It is best to stay inside a building, car, or another object that can protect from a direct strike. If you can see lightning, it is close enough to strike you. Avoid photographing lightning in an open area, especially if there is water, tall trees, or other structures nearby. Stand away from water and tall trees and avoid overly exposed places.

ligthning on the horizon


  • Digital camera - Compact cameras respond too slowly and don't give you enough control over their settings, making a DSLR or mirrorless a must for lightning photography.
  • Sturdy tripod - You'll be using long exposures (perhaps 30 seconds or more), so some sort of camera support is essential.


  • Cable/remote release - Pressing the shutter button by hand causes vibrations which can result in a blurry photo. A cable or remote shutter release will eliminate this problem. Any solution from MIOPS will help you out.
  • Lens - Lightning can be photographed using almost any focal length lens, but a wide-angle zoom (around 28-150mm) gives a good range of possibilities. Make sure the lens has a switch to put it into manual focus mode, as you'll be using that to lock the focusing at infinity.

man looking at the the lightning bolt

Choose your location

You want to position yourself around 8 to 12km away from the storm. Getting closer can be dangerous, and makes it difficult to shoot the lightning effectively. Setting up any further away can lead to the strikes appearing too small or dull in the final photo.


Choose your time

Obviously, we need a thunderstorm, but not all thunderstorms occur at night. We can shoot at different times of the day. It’s fairly common to capture lightning after dark, but how about a bolt during the day, at sunset, or even twilight? Shooting at times other than just pitch black will help bring color and style to your image.

a powerful lightning group

Basic camera settings

Start by setting the shutter to BULB, the aperture to f/5.6, and ISO to 400. The focus is manual. As soon as the lightning occurs, close the shutter. After reviewing the first few images on the LCD, start making changes. If the lightning is brighter than anticipated and results in overexposure, change the ISO to 320 or 250. If the lighting is dimmer than anticipated and results in underexposure, change the ISO to 640 or 800.

Automatic lightning trigger

You can fully automate your lightning photography using a lightning trigger such as MIOPS Smart+. This is a sensor that fits into your camera's hot shoe and plugs into the cable release socket. When it detects a flash in the sky, it fires the shutter for you.

group of horizontal lightnings

Tips for using MIOPS Smart+

Try varying the MIOPS trigger's sensitivity (perhaps to 95%) throughout the evening so that you can limit the camera's captures to instances when they are more likely to capture a compelling lightning strike. With the sensitivity set too high, the camera could trigger at the reflection of lightning bouncing off of the clouds with no actual bolt within view.

Related Article: 5 Best Real Time Lightning Strike Map Apps and Websites for Photographers

About The Author Manuel Delgado:

Manuel Delgado is an award-winning photographer with a specialization in travel and documentary photography. He writes for Contrastly and is a Mentor for NGO Photographers Alliance, having led workshops in Africa with a focus on ethical and humanitarian photography. His work has been exhibited in Europe and the Americas.

Driven by an innate curiosity for his surroundings, Manuel´s process is mainly focused on capturing people in their natural environment; translating through his lens the subtle threads of daily life that are shared across cultures, borders, and races. Depicting people from diverse backgrounds, his work is united by a shared aesthetic that serves to tell each individual’s story. Manuel is currently living in Düsseldorf, Germany. 

Manuel Delgado Instagram Profile

[star star="74"]

[faq q1="what is lightning photography?" a1="Lightning is an amazing subject to try and photograph. Dazzling. Unpredictable. Lightning can occur during any season, even winter." q2="how to choose a location to capture lightnings?" a2="You want to position yourself around 8 to 12km away from the storm. Getting closer can be dangerous, and makes it difficult to shoot the lightning effectively." q3="what are the required gears for lightning photography?" a3="Sturdy tripod - You'll be using long exposures (perhaps 30 seconds or more), so some sort of camera support is essential."]

7 Tips for Choosing a Camera Trigger for Lightning Photography

7 Tips for Choosing a Camera Trigger for Lightning Photography

Here are some of the most practical tips for choosing camera trigger for lightning photography. Choose a camera trigger with a function specifically designed to capture lightning.

The post 7 Tips for Choosing a Camera Trigger for Lightning Photography appeared first on MIOPS.