Lightning photos, the easy way.


Last night we had our first big monsoon storm here in the desert. We had a ton of rain, wind, and lightning. I always love these big storms because it means I have another chance to capture some lightning shots.

There are many great ways to capture lightning and most involve some type of trigger that tells your camera when to open the shutter. I’d love to have some of that equipment but since I don’t I use a different method. It’s very simple and almost anyone can do it, but be warned, this method only works at night. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Set your camera to manual mode.
  2. Set your shutter to 30 seconds (yep, that’s right).
  3. Set your aperture to f/10
  4. Set your ISO to 100
  5. Shoot in RAW mode.
  6. Set your focus to manual focus and focus just shy of infinity (this assumes you’re a few miles from the lightning).
  7. Use a wide angle lens – I usually use an 18mm – 35mm set at 35mm. This really depends on how close you are to the lightning and how wide spread it is. I don’t recommend you get close to any lightning – you can die.
  8. Put your camera on a tripod and point it in the direction of the lightning strikes.

Once you have all that set up you can “fish” for lightning. Click the shutter and wait 30 seconds. Any lightning that strikes during that time will be captured in your shot. Just keep clicking your shutter over and over and you’re bound to capture some great lightning. It’s not the best way to do it, but it is easy and it works. I captured both of these images using this method.

Once you get back from shooting your big storm you’ll need to do some post production. Your color temperatures (white balance) will need to be adjusted and you’ll probably need to do a bit of adjustments to the curves. You should be able to do all of that in Aperture or Lightroom.

When you’re shooting make sure you don’t do anything stupid, like getting too close to the storm or putting your camera in the rain. In Arizona it’s easy to shoot lighting from miles away. If this isn’t the case where you live than you may want to take pictures of something else. Be safe and have fun shooting.


  • domenicomorrone

    Yeah, as amazing as this is, here in Toronto, ON, Canada, we most definitely do NOT get opportunities like this. These storms just don't happen and I wish they would. I'm absolutely fascinated by lightning storms, although I would take your advice and stay well clear of the lightning. Thanks for sharing Mark.

  • Chad

    Great pics Mark! It was raining hard by the time I got home to get my camera so my pics are from under the porch and don't look nearly as impressive as yours. I set the shutter to 'bulb' and just left it open until I saw a flash.

  • suengineer

    Mark, as always, I LOVE your subtlety!

  • Greg

    great shots. great post!

  • T-Rex

    Shock and Awe. =)

  • richardz315

    wow i really found this to be interesting. thanks for sharing

  • Craden

    hey mark, this was amazing.. I'll definitely try this out the next thunderfest!

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  • Shanghai Tour

    Great post!

  • Chengdu Tour

    Great post!

  • Castelle patio furniture

    Shocking and Awesome !

  • Castelle patio furniture

    Shocking and Awesome !

  • Theng Chye Lee

    Great picture . Thanks for sharing. The method is useful.

  • William Southwick

    Great captures!! Opportunities for capturing lightning here in Vermont are not as frequent, but when it does happen, Mother Nature puts on a great show!! You say this method can only be used at night. Would an 10 stop ND filter give you a slow enough shutter speed to simulate a night shot? Maybe something I should add to my “To Do” list.

  • Robert Bai

    I just shot this as my very first lighting picture 3 weeks ago in Hungary. Any comments are welcome…

  • William Southwick

    Here is my first attempt, from just inside the garage.

  • SnapFactory

    Cool shot!