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5 Top Tips On Photographing Storms

Here are some top tips on photographing dark, moody clouds, rain and lightning.

|  Landscape and Travel
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Rain-soaked walkers


Shooting in stormy weather can produce some great shots, but you need to know a few things before you start hitting the shutter button.


1. Safety First

Firstly, be very careful if there's thunder and lightning as this can potentially be very dangerous for you and your equipment. Make sure you are a safe distance away from the storm and don't stray too far away from your car or home, just in case. It's always worth reading up on lightning safety tips and if it's possible, consider shooting from inside.

2. Long Exposures

As you'll increase your chance of capturing lightning if you use a longer exposure, a tripod will be needed to stop shake spoiling your shots. If your camera has a Bulb setting, and you have a way to keep the shutter open, use this method to increase your chances further. If not, around a 30-second exposure should be fine.

Storms can occur at any time of day but trying to use longer exposures during the day can lead to overexposed skies so wait for an evening storm when the sky's darker.

3. Timing

The process of shooting storms can be a bit hit and miss, however, as Pete mentioned in a previous article, you can determine roughly when to fire the shutter by working out the direction of which the storm is moving.

Pete said: "In nature, light travels faster than sound, so lightening strikes first followed by thunder, but us photographers can reverse the process (wait for thunder then count the time between that and a lightning strike) to time a shot and predict roughly when lightning will strike.

When you hear thunder count in seconds the gap before the lightning strike(s). If after the next rumble the lightning strike's quicker, it's likely that the storm is moving towards you and strikes will become more frequent until it passes over."

4. Lightning

To capture lighting, you need patience. Set your camera up on a tripod and aim it at where the storm seems to be. Look where the lightning appears and set your camera up facing that general area as lightning tends to strike intermittently in the same area. You should use a small aperture, f/16 or f/22 if possible. Use a long exposure as mentioned earlier to increase your chances of capturing lightning. You may find you need to focus manually as autofocus can struggle in dark conditions.

You'll need a piece of card to cover the lens which you can remove when you think lightning's about to strike and hold back in place when it's happened. Timing is everything but after a few strikes, you should get the hang of it. 


5. Clouds

It isn't all about lightning though, storm clouds can also make very provoking photos too. To add more interest, use objects such as trees on the horizon line. This will also add scale to the shot, further enhancing the size of the storm clouds above.

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JackAllTog Plus
13 6.4k 58 United Kingdom
28 Aug 2015 12:40PM
Just in time for the Bank holiday Wink

2 Sep 2016 10:24AM
Trying to capture the sharpness of clouds but all appear soft and merged edges, what can I do to get the sharpness?

Quote:Trying to capture the sharpness of clouds but all appear soft and merged edges, what can I do to get the sharpness?

Maybe it would help to use shorter shuttertimes because the clouds often move very fast. I had sometimes problems with the auto focus; sometimes there are no sharp edges between cloud and sky. SoI use manual focus and fix it on infinity.
Fogey Plus
9 101 13 United Kingdom
31 Aug 2022 10:46AM

Quote:Trying to capture the sharpness of clouds but all appear soft and merged edges, what can I do to get the sharpness?

I have yet to see a cloud with sharp edges.

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