How I Shot Lightning

A month or so ago, during a gorgeous lightning storm, a friend texted me and asked, “How do you shoot lightning?”

I was on my way back from an out-of-town trip, but I responded that I wasn’t sure.  Guessing, I sent her some manual settings that I would have started with, but the truth is, I didn’t have a clue.  I had never shot lightning before.  But, I did think that lightning makes some of the most beautiful images and I wanted to give it a try.

It doesn’t rain much in Texas.  So, lightning isn’t something that I get lots of chances to capture.  I didn’t have my opportunity until June 26.

Most everything I know about photography, I have either learned by trial and error, read on the world wide web or in a photography magazine, or been fortunate enough to learn from photography-loving friends.  So, even though I’m about to tell you how I shot lightning, it doesn’t mean that this is the best or correct way to do it.

  1. I started with manual settings that allowed me to capture the ambient light (street lights) in the distance (f 2.8, ss 1/100, iso 2500).  I was using a 17-55mm f2.8 lens.
  2. I used automatic focus to focus on the light furthest away from me, then immediately switched to manual focus and left it there.
  3. I made a mental note to bring mosquito spray next time.  They were eating my lunch!
  4. I also switched my camera to its fastest rapid fire setting.  In my case, this is six frames per second.
  5. I waited… with my viewfinder pressed firmly to my eye.
  6. I steadied myself against my porch rail and waited.  I realized this is a lot like deer hunting.
  7. Anytime, the lightning show started, I pressed the shutter button and hoped I caught something.
  8. After a few tries, I changed my manual settings to f 2.8, ss 1/40, iso 6400 and this is where I stayed for the duration.

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In hindsight, I think I’d have to speed up my shutter speed some.  I can detect some camera shake in some of the pictures.  I think the biggest components to shooting a lightning show are patience, timing and luck!  Enjoy my shots!

Here’s my favorite shot from the night!

Ata-Girl Photography Co. | How I Shot Lightning Tutorial | South Texas Wedding Photographer
Ata-Girl Photography Co. | How I Shot Lightning Tutorial | South Texas Wedding Photographer

(Writing this tutorial was fun!  If there is anything technical you’d like me to write about, please leave a comment to this post or drop me an email.  I’ll give it my best!)



san antonio wedding photographers ata-girl photography since 2010I started Ata-Girl Photography Co. in 2010 and I am one of the premier San Antonio wedding photographers who is available for local and destination weddings. In addition to wedding photography, I also specialize in high school seniors and family portraits in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. I am a professional photographer who enjoys documenting the important milestones and captivating moments in people’s lives. I firmly believe that the unique set of circumstances I have faced in life has prepared me to take a personal and genuine interest in my photography clients. When I’m not photographing a wedding, family or high school senior, I enjoy watching my daughter play softball, hiking, cycling and listening to Elvis!