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Tips on photographing Fireworks

Posted by Happy Hippo on 1/12/2010 02:23:00 pm
There are so many amazing pictures on the internet of fireworks, but taking such pictures is very difficult, as I learned in practice. I went to a firework display a few months ago, and now, finally had time to process the raw pictures I took. But I can remember that it was freezing cold that evening and because fireworks are usually fired at night, you need to dress warm and get some gloves if you want to photograph firework displays. Because your fingers may freeze and you won't be able to change settings on you camera :(
Anyway here are some examples I got from photographing fireworks, which I took on Guy Fawkes day (not a very fancy show, but I'm planning to go to one someday and practice more firework shooting):


Here are some tips that you may wish to consider:

    • You will need a tripod or your photos may look blurry (it's hard to make them sharp even with a tripod).
    • Fireworks are shot at night, so you have to guess the settings that give you good results, so you don't really know what aperture, shutter speed, focal length or ISO you want to use until you start taking pictures. On one hand it's dark at night, and you may think that you need high ISO, slow shutter speed and wide aperture, but on the other hand, fireworks are bright, so maybe you don't need setting like that. But also if you zoom in close on fireworks, it's very bright and you need completely different setting, and if you zoom out it's a different story again.
    • Get to the place a bit earlier, so you can find a good spot with clear sky, make sure there are no bright sources shining directly into your lens, and that when more people arrive they wouldn't want to stand in front of your camera.
    • Fix your camera to a tripod and aim at the area of the sky where you think the fireworks will be (you don't have to be very accurate here, because you can always crop your pictures a bit)
    • Landscape or Portrait camera orientation depends on your situation and position. If e.g. the landscape around is ugly, there is no point in capturing it really :)
    • Start with quite general settings like: RAW file formal (really helpful for fireworks), fast or slow shutter speed, depending of the effects you want to achieve and standard aperture (ISO 400-ish..). Do not rely on the light meter this time, it won't tell you anything useful.
    • After fireworks display have started, take a couple of pictures and review them thoroughly, adjusting the settings accordingly. You will probably need to switch to manual focus, and try to focus your camera on one firework quickly and leave the setting for a while. Also, you need to consider the depth of field: if the firework display is very big, you may need deep depth of field (which is achieved with lower aperture and slow shutter speed, see this post for more information).
    • Try different settings (e.g.slow shutter + zoom out+higher iso/apertre, or fast shutter+zoom in+average iso/aperture)
    • It's also a good idea to have a remote control or shutter release, because human reaction is quite important here. A firework may fire and you press the shutter speed, when it's half-way out of the viewing range etc..
    • After you've done the photoshoot, you will probably need to crops most of your pictures, sharpen them and maybe do other corrections like saturation etc..
    • And most importantly: dress warm!

      Thanks for reading!
      If you have more suggestions or want to share links to your pictures, post them in comments!!

      2 Comments


      Photographing fireworks is quite challenging and you have many nice photos.


      Fantastic effort - you have caught some very good frames here, aren't they just beautiful - one of mans more pleasant creations.
      Regards,
      Jess @ www.thesoapcauldron.co.uk

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