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.

75mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

75mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

75mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56 mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, 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!

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~ by photographyfree4all on June 14, 2015.

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