Capture lightning with an iPhone or cell phone is actually a lot easier than you might think! I posted a photo from a lightning storm a couple weeks ago on my Instagram story, and someone responded asking how many tries it took me to get that…
and the answer is only one! In this post, I’ll show you easy ways for capturing pretty cool lightning photos and videos on a cell phone!
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How to Capture Lightning with an iPhone: Time-Lapse Photos
If you were to try and capture lightning on your phone the way you normally take photos (point and shoot when you see it), you probably wouldn’t have very much success. The way I usually do it is by setting my phone up on a tripod (this is the one I have and it’s great) and doing a time lapse!
On iPhones, go into the camera app, swipe over to the left until you get to the “Time-Lapse” mode. From there, just push the button and let it go for a while… I let mine sit for 5+ minutes. You technically don’t need a tripod, it just get annoying holding your phone up for so long.
While the iPhone’s Time-Lapse mode is fine, I personally prefer a different app called Hyperlapse. It has great stabilization and allows you to control the speed of the final video. It’s usually the one I use!
Once you capture your time-lapse, save it, then go to the video in your library. Next, click play then pause it. Now the video should’ve expanded it’s frames at the bottom of the screen. Slowly slide through the frames looking for the shot of lightning.
Once you find the frame with the lightning, pause it, then take a screenshot!
Crop it to the size you want, and voila, you’ve got a lightning photo! Granted it’s not professional quality in sharpness and all that, it is still a pretty cool shot to share on social media.
This photo was taken in Nice, France using the same time-lapse method! It’s actually where I first got the idea/tried it.
If you are having trouble catching the right frame, you can always upload the video into a video editing app and slow it down. That will allow you to better stop it on the frame you want. Which brings me to my next method of capturing lightning on an iPhone…
Method 2: Capturing Lightning with Videos
A great way to capture lightning is by video. Similar to the time-lapse method, hit record and let your phone do all the work! Be sure to set your video settings to the highest quality/frames per second:
Because lightning is so fast, I like to upload the videos into a video editing app (I use Splice) and slow it wayyyy down. I also cut the video down to only the parts that have lightning. Here’s a tutorial video, I sped it up so it’s not too long:
From there, you can take screenshots of the video to save and share as photos.
Or add other awesome video shots together in Splice and share as a video:
It’s fairly simple to do and makes for some really cool lightning shots with an iPhone!
Method 3: Capture Lightning Using iPhone Burst Mode
One way to capture lightning, is by doing a “Burst” in your iPhone’s camera. To do this, go into your camera app and hold the button down. You’ll see it taking tons of photos one right after the other.
Once you take your “burst,” go to that photo, click “select” at the bottom, and scroll through all the photos in the burst. Select the ones you like then hit “done” and “save only favorites.” Then only those photos will be saved in your phone!
I would only recommend this method if there is a ton of lightning and it is striking frequently. Otherwise, holding the burst mode for minutes at a time really isn’t feasible. I also don’t think this method works very well at night time.
Method 4: Slow Shutter App
I haven’t used this app much to capture lightning with an iPhone, but after doing some research, it is definitely another solid option! I have had it on my phone for awhile, so I honestly cannot remember if I had to pay for it or not, but if I did, it was probably only a dollar or two.
You definitely need to use a tripod for this method. I recommend adjusting the app’s setting to:
- “Light Trail” mode
- 1/4 sensitivity
- at least 15 seconds for the shutter speed
- turn on intervalometer
An intervalometer is basically a device that automatically takes photos for you every set number of seconds. I have one for my regular camera and it’s a lifesaver when it comes to taking your own photos. For capturing lightning, I would set the the delay to 1 second, you want to capture as much as you can without a delay.
Get your phone situated on a tripod and hit start. The phone will now automatically take a bunch of 15 second long exposure photos. This method maybe some luck/trial and error, but I am definitely going to try it out on the next thunderstorm and will update this post!