Using Live Photos to photograph lightning on iPhone


Lightning can be one of the most difficult and time consuming things to photograph. It’s hard to predict when it will hit and there’s usually adverse conditions that make it potentially dangerous.

But the results can be, well, striking.

With DSLR cameras, the standard way of photographing lightning is placing the camera on a tripod, set the shutter speed to the longest you can, under expose the and keep taking pictures. When lightning strikes, the bright flash of light will appear in the exposure. You just have to keep pressing the shutter.

How do you recreate this with a handheld iPhone? Live Photos.

I recently figured this out sitting on a plane that was delayed for two hours because of a storm. I was the only person sitting there on the runway OK with the hold up.

I was able to take these photos of lightning as I was waiting for the most intense part of the storm passed. I help the phone in position looking out the window, and when I saw lighting strike I hit the shutter. Then, I open the Edit settings of the photo and hit the Live Photo icon. From there I could pin point the exact time when lightning struck.

Note: if you are taking pictures of lightning, please be careful. One of my favorite places to set up is in parking garages.

The downside is that you don’t have any control over the exposure, so you don’t get the pure black sky and lightning bolt. There’s several apps that automatically take pictures of lightning (I’ve used iLigntningCam), but you need to have the phone stabilized and that was not an option on the plane.

But for taking pictures of lightning handheld, it’s quite remarkable. Another great use for the iPhone’s image system, something I would not have been able to do with any other camera.

September 13, 2019