How to Use a Lightning Sensor

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How to Use a Lightning Sensor


Photographing electrical storms can be immensely rewarding. Although it takes a lot of preparation, set up, and patience, the results can often be spectacular. There is a fairly exact science to taking pictures of lightning. You’ll need a fairly good camera and lens, as well as a sturdy tripod. You’ll also need to know how to use them. One extra piece of equipment that can come in extremely useful is a lightning sensor. However, not many people know what they are or how to use them. In this article, we’ll look at both of these aspects.

What is a Lightning Sensor?

Essentially, a lightning sensor is a trigger device that attaches to your camera. It has a sensor on the front that detects lightning. When lightning strikes, the sensor sends a signal to your camera’s shutter release, and it takes a picture. It’s a simple system that can yield fantastic results, but only if you get your camera settings right.

When Should You Use a Lightning Sensor?

Many people assume that these devices are best used to capture shots of lightning at night. This is far from the case. At night, you can set your camera up for a long exposure (a few seconds), and it will capture any strikes that occur in that time. Instead, triggers should be used when there is more ambient light. When it’s bright out, long exposures risk over-exposing, so use a lightning sensor during the day for a quick capture.

What Camera Settings Should You Use?

One of the most important factors in capturing a strike, even when using a sensor, is shutter speed. If your speed is too fast, you’ll miss the strike. Aperture and ISO are both also vital to the process. Try starting with your aperture as high as it will go, narrowing the opening of the lens. Attach an ND filter as well, as this will lower your shutter speed further. To compensate for the filter, you will need to use a higher ISO than usual, around 200-400.

Shooting Lightning: Other Tips

Now that you know how to set up your camera, you’re nearly ready to get shooting. Below are some other top tips for photography with a lightning sensor.

Choose Your Background

Even with your settings configured correctly and your lightning sensor attached, if lightning strikes on a bright background, it will be hard to see. You should aim to get as close to the storm as possible, giving you the chance to frame your shots against the dark grey background of the storm clouds.

Change Your Settings As You Go

It’s unlikely that you’ll have the perfect setup at the first time of asking. Even with the suggestions above, you may find that when you’re out in the field, conditions are different. Make sure that you take multiple test shots and make alterations as necessary.


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