I recently took pictures of a lightning storm using my camera phone (Samsung Galaxy S3). In several of the shots where I managed to capture lightning, a lighter (brighter?) vertical section sometimes appeared, as in the picture below;

lightning storm with bright line

I took some photos using my wifes camera phone (iphone 5) and was able to reproduce similar results. The location of the brighter line was not consistent, and only happened when actual lightning was captured.

What is this called, how can I avoid it, and how can I (as an amateur non Photoshop/gimp user) correct it so that the photo is uniform, now that its done?


1 Answer 1


This is caused by the lightning illuminating the sky very briefly as the photograph is captured. The image on digital cameras is not recorded on the whole sensor at the same time, but instead it scans across the sensor, usually (as in this case) parallel to the shorter edge. It is particularly pronounced on camera phones as the scanning speed is slower than in higher end cameras. You can get unusual effects by taking advantage of this process, for example photographing a spinning propeller on an aeroplane results in striping such as this

I'm not sure the effect has a name as such, but is something you will experience whenever lighting conditions change rapidly during the exposure. It can also sometimes be seen when photographing under fluorescent lighting, which alternates between two slightly different hues about 50 times a second.

  • 4
    \$\begingroup\$ It's called a rolling shutter artifact. \$\endgroup\$
    – Matt Grum
    Jul 23, 2014 at 21:04
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ The florescent lighting color band can be seen in Do fluorescent lighting and shutter speed create a problem with color cast?. I've seen (can't find any examples on line) a set of interesting photos of a thunderstorm shot with a Noblex camera (panoramic camera of the short rotation type) where there were different lighting levels throughout the duration of a single exposure. \$\endgroup\$
    – user13451
    Jul 24, 2014 at 2:38

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