FIREWORKS PHOTOGRAPHY – Photography Tip #25
I thought it might be good to post this tip about photographing fireworks from a few years back. Good luck!
When it comes to photography, I think everyone who has ever picked up a camera and thought seriously about improving their picture-taking skills has a desire to capture some really nice shots of fireworks. But if you’re like me, you’re early attempts were disastrous!! However, with a little pre-shoot preparation you can find yourself capturing some very pleasing images this Independence Day!!
First, you must have a tripod!! I cannot stress this enough because contrary to popular thinking, your shutter speed is going to be slow – not fast.
Next, you should have a remote shutter release cable. You can get by without this piece of equipment, but it’s a little more of a hassle. If you don’t have a shutter release cable, you will need to pre-set your shutter timer for a 2 second delay. This will allow you to trip the shutter, but delay the action for two seconds – allowing any vibrations to settle before the shutter actually opens.
Of course, you will need a camera that allows for shutter settings, aperture settings, ISO settings, and well…you get the picture, don’t you? You’ll need an SLR or a DSLR camera.
For this particular shoot, I decided upon my settings prior to my set-up. This allowed me to prepare my camera before leaving my house. Here’s what I did:
- Disengaged the stability feature on my Canon 28-135mm zoom lens – the stability feature can actually cause minor distortion attempting to allow for vibration that won’t be there
- Disengaged the auto-focus feature on my Canon lens – you don’t want your lens trying to auto-focus in the dark
- Manually pre-set my focus to infinity
- Pre-set my camera to manual (M) – you must be in total control
- Pre-set my aperture to f/11 – you want a nice depth of field in case there are fireworks exploding in the background
- Set the ISO on my Canon 50D to 100 – a high ISO will only add distracting noise to your image
- Set the shutter delay for 2 seconds
- Set the shutter speed for 4 seconds
Following these steps, I snapped a quick hand-held practice shot in my studio. Yep! Everything is dark and blurry – perfect!! It would seem everything was set correctly.
Now I have to say, I have the luxury of seeing fireworks every night of the year! Because of this, I knew I didn’t want to experiment in the field. Yes, I was going to succeed or fail with these settings!
So again, my camera specifics are: Canon 50D, 56mm or 75mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100.
Again, I really didn’t want to make any exposure adjustments in the field for this shoot. And after carefully viewing the first few shots, I knew no adjustments would be necessary. I did have to re-position my camera slightly when the fireworks began because I was unsure exactly where they would begin their ascent. Once that was done, I only adjusted my focal length one time to capture some closer shots.
My lesson learned on this shoot: for the finale (you know, when they fire off everything that’s remaining) the 4 second shutter speed washed out the image a bit. There were just too many explosions. I will adjust my shutter speed or stop down my lens when the finale begins next time.
I hope this helps anyone out there who will be making their first attempt at shooting fireworks this weekend!