The Lightning Bug – Lightning Trigger

Jeff Colburn


About six months ago I bought a MK Controls Lightning Bug lightning trigger and I love it. I wanted one to make my lightning photography easier and safer. No more leaving the shutter open for countless 30-second exposures to hopefully get something. No going out and taking 100 shots to get 3 photographs of lightning. It’s great.

The Lightning Bug attaches to a camera’s hot shoe, and then it watches not for lighting, but the burst of infrared that precedes a lightning bolt. Point it towards a storm, choose your settings and just wait for the shutter to fire. Your camera will capture the bolt almost every time.

The only time it doesn’t is when the Lightning Bug sees a bolt that’s out of the viewing area of your camera lens. The Lightning Bug covers an area of about 45 degrees side-to-side and 5 degrees up and down. If you’re getting a lot of shots from lightning outside the range of your lens, you can lower the sensitivity of the Lightning Bug, and reduce these shots.


There are some nice perks to using a lightning trigger.

  • You can sit in the car during a storm, reducing your chance of being hit by lightning. I’ve almost been hit twice. Not fun. If it’s windy, remember this rule, never be more than an arm’s length away from your tripod.
  • You can get out of the rain.
  • In the Southwest, you can keep checking around your feet for snakes, scorpions and tarantulas, without missing any lightning shots.
  • You can scan the skies, and your surroundings, instead of focusing on your camera. I watch to see where the storm is moving, if another storm is coming my direction or if a coyote or javelina is sneaking up behind me.

Two main reasons I chose the Lightning Bug is that the buttons on the top of the unit are sealed, so there’s no chance of water leaking in around a button and frying the electronics. And the unit is powered by a standard 9V battery. I like electronics that run off of inexpensive and easy to find batteries. Lightning Bug lets you adjust the sensitivity of the unit, depending on how far away the storm is. I keep the sensitivity pretty high. This lets me catch distant storms and smaller bolts of lightning.


I have used this unit several times, both at night and daytime, and it works great. It catches more lighting than I did before I had it, and it lets me enjoy watching the storm while my camera takes pictures by itself.

I would suggest playing around with the unit at home to get familiar with how to set your camera and Lightning Bug. One thing to know, when you want to change the setting on the Lightning Bug, you must turn off your camera. Practicing all of this ahead of time will prevent you from wasting time in the field.

Simplify your lightning photography, and get yourself a Lightning Bug.

(For tips on lightning safety, check out my article How To Photograph Lightning, And Live To Tell About It)

Have Fun,


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