Tips on Photographing Fireworks

by imageguy

It’s almost July 4th and soon the Fireworks will begin. In some places they already have. Families take the kids, and often the cameras to witness these wonderful pyrotechnic displays and often the results are somewhat disappointing when they just don’t capture the color and vitality of the moment. So hear are some tips for shooting fireworks.

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To start with you need a camera that you can control yourself. Very simple, auto everything cameras are not likely to give the results you want. You will need a sturdy tripod as well. Assuming you are using a digital camera, place the camera on the tripod facing toward where you expect to see the display. A wide angle (zoomed out) on the lens until you can see just where the activity will be, then you can adjust the zoom as the fireworks begin to go off. A vertical format works best. You want to fill as much of the frame as you can, but still leave yourself room for the randomness of where these explosions will occur. Depending on how close you are to the display, you may need to zoom in or out as things take place.

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Set your camera on manual focus. And set your focus for 500 feet to infinity, at least very distant. Auto focus will not have time or anything still and sharp to locate, so will likely just give you blurs as it seeks something to focus on. If your camera has image stabilization, turn it off too. You will be on a tripod with long exposures and do not want the camera trying to compensate for image movement. Start out with your ISO set to about 400. You may find as you shoot that images are still too bright. If so, reset the ISO lower, 200 or even 100 with very bright fireworks. Set your exposures to manual as well. Shutter should be set to B for bulb (time exposure). You’ll be experimenting with long exposure times, and trying to anticipate when to press the shutter release. Aperture should be set fairly small in the beginning. This will not only help make your exposures longer without over exposure, but will also give you the greatest depth of field (how much is in focus from near to far).

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When the fireworks begin, listen for the first low boom that signals the launch of the rocket or aerial bomb. Push the shutter release and hold it open for several seconds awaiting the burst in the air. Hold the shutter long enough to allow the explosion to pan out across the sky. This will give you the long trails and graceful curves. It also allows for other explosions to take place at the same time, giving multiple bursts at different points of expansion and multiple colors. You will likely find, as you review your exposures, that two to eight seconds will provide good results and as you shoot more and more and learn to anticipate the right moment to release the shutter, you can narrow down to a regular rhythm of two to four seconds at a time.

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If your bursts look too small, zoom in. If your shots are too bright, try smaller aperture or lower ISO. If they are too dark, higher ISO and larger aperture. If you’re not getting enough spread, longer exposures.

Be careful at the grand finale, it will get really bright!

Be safe, have fun, and celebrate!

All Images are Copyright © George Cannon, All Rights Reserved.

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