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Last night I saw lightning from my window, but I did not manage to get a good shot of any, even with the "Long exposure" and "Night sight" modes.

I only have an Android Pixel 6 Pro, without any accessories.

What should I try next time?

Ideally, I would like to be able to put the phone against a wall or on the ground with the screen facing down, start the capture by vocal command (as the screen would not be accessible), wait until lightning happens, retrieve the phone, and finally adjust the brightness of the landscape around the lightning bolts.

Any technique to achieve something similar with the stock camera app or the open source "Open Camera" app would be great, but I can also install another app if necessary.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Have you tried the method in this answer? I am not sure what settings the "Long exposure" and "Night sight" modes use, so perhaps they already do what is outlined in that answer. If so, could you perhaps share 1-2 photos of your failed attempts, including the EXIF data? Be careful not to reveal the GPS information in the EXIF data as that can show where you live. \$\endgroup\$ Sep 28, 2022 at 11:50

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There are (at least) 2 ways of shooting lightning. 1) with a lightning trigger device/app or 2) by doing long exposures.

  1. Lightning triggers are basically light sensors that, once connected to your camera, will detect a sudden change in the ambient light and will instantly command your camera to take a picture. They usually connect to a camera via the remote control port or wirelessly.

I do not know if such devices exist for smartphones. I have seen apps on iOS and Android that claim to achieve the same results but have never tested them (and I doubt they are as good as external devices).

Android

iOS


  1. You can do long exposures (for example 15 or 30 seconds exposures), in a row, and hope that lightning will strike while your camera is capturing the image. This will work at night or dusk/dawn but it won't work during daytime unless you have access to ND filters. It also requires that you use a tripod and/or leave the camera in a stable position.

Open Camera has ways to control the exposure time but it apparently depends on the device you are using.

For manual shutter speed, first enable Camera2 API under Settings. Then from the popup (three dots) menu you can switch to manual mode by choosing a non-auto ISO. Further control for ISO and shutter speed is then possible from the exposure icon on the main screen.

If any of these options aren't available, it's not supported by the device.

and

This varies by device, but whatever is shown is what the device supports. Only a few devices (like OnePlus) seem to support multi-second long exposures.

Source: Open Camera Discussion.

In conculsion, it might be worth trying one of the exising lightning trigger apps and see if it works for you, or you probably will have to switch to a different device / camera with more controls.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the long exposure recommendation. I've had good luck with that method myself (with a DSLR, not a smartphone) \$\endgroup\$
    – maples
    Sep 28, 2022 at 18:28
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As said in other answers you need to either use long exposure, or use a light trigger. However, on digital cameras (dedicated cameras or smartphones) the light trigger can be the camera itself, and the MagicLantern firmware for Canon DSLRs has such a function.

Looking at the Play Store, for Android, there is at least the Lightning Trigger App by Pixel Tech that claims to be able to do so.

There is also Lightning Camera - Fast burst by Pluto Applications that works on a different principle: it continuously records, and when you press the button it shows you the recent pictures so you can pick the one that has the lightning.

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