Shooting Fireworks, Do you know how?

As much fun as they are to watch, fireworks are equally as challenging to photograph.
I have some basic recommendations for you.
You need a correct viewing position, you will need to have something in the photo that is identifiable like a building or a National Monument. Other consideration in choosing the location is which way the wind is blowing because the fireworks creat smoke and if the wind blows towards you the shot will be blocked my the smoke and it will be very uncomfortable to shoot.

The camera oh well, it doesn’t matter what kind of camera you use, but it is better if you have a manual camera, SLR or DSLR and you can control the exposures. I recommentd the exposure at f/8 or f/11, use a slow speed film (ISO 50 or ISO 100) if you have digital you can shoot RAW because it iwll give you flexibility over the resulting color.

Do some test, shoot some cars at night, anything with a light, set your camera before the show, set the white balance to Sunny or Cloudy, Turn off your flash, the fireworks are bright enough, and your flash won’t reach them anyway. Don’t use lens filters.

This is obvious but use a tripod, this is key for a good shot, if you don’t have a tripod you can position your camera on top of a stable surface, like the roof of your car, the idea here is to sit motionless, you can always try to brace yourself against a tree or a building, or hold the camera on a walking stick.

Get a shutter release cable so you won’t have to touch the camera.

This is the most important trick to shoot fireworks, keep the shutter open to capture the entire burst. Set the exposure to the maximum length. To get the sharpest image it is best that nothing comes in contact with the camera during the exposure. Use the automatic long exposure of 30 seconds or more. If your camera does not have an automatic long exposure the use of a cable release is OK. Use the BULB (B) setting, which will keep the shutter open as long as the button is depressed. A rule of thumb is to open the shutter as soon as you hear or see the rocket shooting into the sky and to leave it open until the burst is dissipating. This will usually take several seconds.

Set your camera to manual focus and focus your lens at infinity. If your image has buildings, trees, or some other interesting foreground element then you might want to make sure they’re in focus. That depends on what you want out of the final photo. The streaks themselves are difficult to get “sharp” as they are just the glow of burning chemicals – there is nothing there to be really be sharp. So focus, though important, is not critical. Either way, once you get your focus set the way you want, leave it. Switch off your auto focus and don’t worry about it for the rest of the night.

Feel free to experiment and find what works best for you.

Summary:
Sturdy support
Shake-free release
Manual settings
Lowest ISO
BULB or several second shutter speeds
Loose framing
Infinity focus
Something in the frame to add scale/anchor the shot
Open shutter when mortar first leaves ground
Close shutter after several bursts
Don’t be afraid to reframe

I recommend this books Lighting Photo Workshop and Digital SLR Cameras & Photography For Dummies . Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition), The Digital Photography Book

Happy 4th of july and keep shooting.

 

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~ by samgraphicdesign on July 1, 2008.

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