Photographing Lightning

I've just purchased a Canon 350D, digital SLR - any advice on what settings to use to most effectively photograph lightning? I would use the bulb setting, wait for a lightning flash then close. What aperture and ISO setting would be appropriate?

Hi Peter,
I use bulb setting with my 300D as well, mostly I set ISO to 100 or 200, aperture value from f/4 to f/11, settings depends on how close flashes are. :wink:

Good luck,

Just to echo what Marko said... bulb and an ISO of 100 / 200 work really nice. Your using a digital camera also, so just experiment with different settings... you have that freedom.

Still stuck in the world of film,
I've got also a Canon 350D and you could see the result of using f10, 30" of exposure and ISO 100. A very good result!
Lightning Tips

I shoot a lot of lightning with my 10D (Lots of photos in my sig). There are a few things that are important when doing it:

1) Use a Tripod. Exposure times will be long, so a stable tripod is a must.

2) Use a remote. This is also a must, as it reduces any vibrations caused by hitting the shutter button. In a long exposure, any vibrations will cause blur.

3) Use Mirror Lock Up. I personally use MLU on all of my long exposures. This works very well if you use MLU with the Timer, as on the Canons it reduces the timer down to 3 seconds. Use this combination if you don't have a remote to reduce vibrations.

4) Find an interesting forground. Lightning by itself looks neat, but there is nothing like getting a cool forground. Buildings and skylines work especially well.

5) Change your aperature depending upon how close the lightning is. If the lightning is far away and not very bright, use a lower aperature like F4. If it is closer and more intense, use F10 or above.

6) Change the shutter speed to properly expose the scene. I usually take a number of practice shots while adjusting the shutter speed to optimize the exposure for the scene. Make sure your not blowing out all the highlights (they will show up as flashing white areas on your Canon).

7) Shoot, Shoot, Shoot, Shoot. :D Digital is cheap. I actually use an intervalometer remote control that will repeatedly shoot for me. There is only a few second delay between shots, so I don't miss good lightning very often.

Hope this helps,

Wish I saw this thread before the thunderstorm and Lighting show over Overland Park/Olathe area moved. And of course I has decided not to bring my camera because I thought the storms would not move in this soon).This is thread has some great stuff so thanks. Especially the info on iso/asa and use of different exposure times.

Has anyone ever tried using burst mode? (I realize that resolution may not be as good though)
I have canon EOS 300D and I got some good results with some basilar things:

-using a Tripod
-20" or 30" of exposure
-F8-F10, it depends on situations
I use film too, only transparency. ISO 50-100 is my choice. Lightning is "hot", it will fry anything faster (more sensitive), which will result in that fat, overexposed look to the bolt (not accurate, since lightning is only the width of a pencil). To me, although the calculations/technical aspects are fun, making a good composition is the other half of it.
I've been just using my 5.0MP Kodak Easyshare. I can't get daytime lightning because the image will just appear white. Nighttime lightning shots will look great though. I just set the exposure time to 4 seconds, open the shutter, and hope for a good one. Here is a result of my patience.


My avatar is also a good example. :)
Hi Peter,
I use bulb setting with my 300D as well, mostly I set ISO to 100 or 200, aperture value from f/4 to f/11, settings depends on how close flashes are. :wink:
Good luck,

Marco, what aperture do you suggest when the neighbor's tree is on fire? B)
And now for something completely different.....

I don't even own a digital still camera. I have a Canon Optura 50 and an XL-1. I certainly cannot obtain nor produce any "pro-quality" lightning pics, but I don't really care, because I'm not selling any pics and I'm not much "into" lightning pics, anyway.

When I do decide to grab some lightning pics, though, here's what I try to do:

Get the XL-1 on a tripod (much better resolution than the Optura). On the manual focus setting, push the auto focus button while aimed at some hard object in the distance to get it locked on "infinity" (getting "infinity" by manually focusing with that vidcam is very tricky...better to let the vidcam do it)

Roll the tape.

The XL-1 does not create still images, so then I (later) take the tape out of the XL-1 and put it in the Optura, find good lightning shots frame-by-frame, and hit the "photo" button on the Optura, which makes 800x600 still images.

Here's an example:

(click for larger versions)

You might say that that particular image is a bit washed out, but it's not because of the technique, just that that lightning bolt was very bright, but I still liked it. I think the next frame was much darker (and the previous one nearly all white from the intensity of the strike), so I preferred this one. You get them in all varieties. I like a lot of the somewhat "washed out" ones, because of the way it makes the bolt more "dramatic", IMO.

I know there are plenty of people who love the lightning shots, so I take them to satisfy other people, mainly, and to spice up my Webshots site.

The 3 pics that follow that one on the Webshots site were taken with the Optura (they are also vidcaps), and you can really see the difference in the resolution between that one and the 3 from the Optura. In fact, I cropped this one, so it has lost a slight amount of resolution from original. The Optura versions are unedited.