So the first time I ever set out to capture photos of a meteor shower (tips on that here), I ran back into my house dripping wet from rain with some awesome photos of lightning. You see the Perseid Meteor Shower coincides with the wild Arizona monsoon season. After I pulled them up on my computer, that was it, I was bitten by the bug. Here my top 8 tips on epic lightning photos:
This is so important! You must understand lightning bolts will take a direct path to the ground. If you are holding a camera or metal tripod, they, and you become a prime target. You should never be out in an open area especially if there is water, tall trees or structures nearby.
Here's what you will need to capture epic lightning photos:
-Wide Angle Lens
-Remote Shutter Release or Interval Timer
Now on to camera settings:
It's super important you have the camera focus set to manual. You don’t want the camera searching for a focus point in the low light and missing the shots. Because of the randomness of where lightning strikes, setting your focus to infinity should ensure you won't end up with blurry photos.
An aperture of f/6 or under will work best. A shallow depth of field will only be a problem if you have something in the foreground you want in focus. Take a look at how you composed the shot and pick your aperture accordingly. The photo below is shot at f/7.1 to get the house in focus also.
Grace Boyd. Arizona monsoon. ISO 400. 8 Secs. f/7.1.
Basically as a general rule for long exposure photos, you need to keep the ISO as low as you can get it. For lightning depending on the length of exposure you can safely go up to 800 without introducing noise. For lighting shots during the day it would need to stay at 100-200.
6. Shutter Speed
The best setting is 8-10 seconds, but not to be confused with 1/8 or 1/10. Lightning is always brighter than you think it will be. You could also set your camera to bulb mode and keep the shutter open to capture the lightning and close it as soon as it has touched down.
7. Shooting in RAW
Shooting in RAW will be your best friend. Just trust me on this. It will make post-processing so much easier.
You have unlimited options with the photos. You'll notice lightning that is further away will have a yellow tint. The closer it is, the more blue and purple it will turn. I personally use Lightroom for all my post-processing.
I think that's basically it. Good luck out there and stay safe! Cant't wait to see what you come up with!