Simple tips for photographing fireworks
With the 4th of July just around the corner I thought I’d share a few fireworks digital photography tips:
GET THERE EARLY
This is, unfortunately, the biggest reason I don’t shoot fireworks as often as I’d like. In order to really succeed at this you have to get to your location hours ahead of time, stake a claim to your spot, save extra space for when the rest of your family shows up, and be prepared to defend your turf as if your life depended on it. That being said, though, there are big payoffs for those intrepid photographers willing to put in the extra time (and sweat).
Use a Tripod
A tripod is a MUST secure your digital camera to something that will ensure it doesn’t move during the taking of your shots. This is especially important in photographing fireworks simply because you’ll be using longer shutter speeds which will not only capture the movement of the fireworks but any movement of the camera itself.
Turn off your flash.
No matter the power of the camera flash or add-on flash it will not be enough to reach the fireworks. Go flash less for the highest quality and clearest photos.
Use Manual Mode
Always use manual focus instead of auto focus. For many cameras it can be difficult to use autofocus in low light situations. To prevent missing great firework shots try adjusting your camera to manual focus. Remember if you change focal lengths throughout the firework show it will mean you need to adjust your manual focus on most lenses.
Try an aperture of f/5.6 at ISO 50 and ISO 100, and f/8 at ISO 200 for starters. If you don't know what an aperture is, or your camera doesn't have this adjustment, don't worry. No Manual Mode? Use the Aperture-Priority (A or Av) mode instead. Choose the aperture as above, press the shutter before the first burst, and use your hand to cover the lens if the camera stays open longer than you want it to.
Shoot at the lowest ISO for the best results. Turn off ISO AUTO because it will try to set a high ISO in the dark. If you have no idea what ISO is, forget about it.
You will want to use the Bulb setting, if your camera has it. If not, you will have to use some guesswork for the shutter-speed portion of your exposures. (For those unfamiliar with the Bulb setting—the photographer depresses and holds the shutter release or cable release until they wish to close the shutter and end the exposure by releasing the release. The term comes from when pneumatic shutter releases were used in days of yesteryear. On some cameras, the "T" mode is similar, but necessitates a second push of the release to end the exposure.)
Lastly, remember that a simple point and shoot camera can do the trick too!. Put the point and shoot on “fireworks mode” and the self-timer to 2 seconds. With the correct settings, point and shoot cameras can take great firework photographs!
You don’t have a fancy camera? USE YOUR PHONE!
Use a tripod
When you take picture of fireworks, your phone's camera needs to hold the shutter open long enough to “see” the fireworks. The longer the shutter is open, the more susceptible your photo is to motion blur. So use a tripod to make sure there’s no movement. A Selfie stick secured firmly will make the trick too!
Use the “landscape” mode
Your phone's camera automatically tries to find an object on which to focus. And when presented with a black featureless sky, the camera doesn’t know what to do. By putting your camera in “landscape” mode, you’ll be presetting the focus to infinity and narrowing the lens opening, which keeps both near and far objects in focus
Turn off the flash
Turning your flash off will let your phone's camera know that it only has available light to take a picture. This is important because the camera will then keep the shutter open long enough to capture the fireworks. The flash button is usually a separate button on the main camera app screen or in the settings within the camera app.
Turn down the ISO
High ISO will crank up the sensitivity of your phone's camera so it can see details in the dark. However, the fireworks themselves are quite bright.
So, to avoid overexposure and reduce noise, take your camera out of Auto ISO and change the setting to ISO 100 or even lower.
The ISO setting is usually found under the main menu or in the settings within the camera app.
... and finally..
BE CREATIVE! Look around and take pictures of your kids watching the fireworks, the silhouette of the people, the reflection in the water... you get the idea!.
Post your photos here! I want to see your photos!