Whether you’re celebrating Independence Day, Canada Day, Guy Fawkes Day,Diwali or just having fun with fireworks, it’s always tempting to take pictures of the fireworks exploding in air. After all, a good firework show is an amazing spectacle, and you’ve probably got a camera on you anyway. Unfortunately photographs of fireworks usually don’t hold a candle to the real thing. If you’re tired of your festive pictures coming out grainy, blurry, underexposed or overexposed, read on.
A fireworks show involves many, many fireworks, so be ready to experiment, preferably with a digital camera so you get instant feedback. Since fireworks produce basically monochromatic light (from chemicals), their colors will be distinct at a variety of apertures and ISO settings. A long exposure is required to let a few fireworks trace out their patterns. Different aperture and ISO settings will affect the brightness of the surroundings – bright surroundings are distracting, but subdued rather than completely black surroundings are much more interesting. Choose the amount of foreground and sides to include with this in mind. (The aperture setting isn’t very important for depth of field with far away fireworks, since they’ll be essentially at infinity, and any foreground should be dim and indistinct in any event – it mainly matters for overall exposure, and a relatively wide aperture and low ISO will give less “noise” than a small aperture and high ISO.)
When scouting out your location, choose some interesting features to serve as the background. This will make your photos more exciting for others to view.
- Don’t extend the legs or center column of the tripod. Keep everything close to the ground to keep the camera as steady as possible.
- A flashlight can be used to fill in shadows.
- Ensure that wherever the tripod is set up is safely out of the way of other people tripping over it. If you’re in a crowd, ask a friend to act as a shield to ensure other people don’t walk into your camera shooting while you’re looking upward.
- Set the focus to infinity. You’re generally far enough away from fireworks that you can adjust the lens focus to infinity and leave it there. If you want to get a closeup of a small part of the burst, you may need to adjust the focus as you zoom in. If you want to include buildings or people in the background, you may want to bring these into focus. Avoid the use of auto focus if possible; as already noted, most cameras have difficulty adjusting focus in low light conditions.
- Use a smaller aperture. Set the aperture in the f5.6 to f16 range. F8 is usually a good bet, but if you’re shooting with ISO 200 film you may want to kick it up to f16.
- Turn off the flash. The fireworks are bright enough, and your flash wouldn’t effectively reach them anyway; however, it will dull the atmosphere of the shot, thereby lessening its impact.
- Take off any filters or lens caps before shooting.
- If your lens has IS (Canon) or VR (Nikon), turn it off before shooting. If you are shooting with an SLR or DSLR camera, chances are your lens has the IS (image stabilization) or VR (vibration reduction) feature built in. And if you have IS or VR (it is essentially the same thing, but Canon and Nikon just had to label it differently), then chances are you are used to leaving it on close to 100 percent of the time – which is generally a good idea. IS/VR is meant to sense the vibration (the shaking of your hands, mostly) and compensate for it. When it does not sense any, it… creates it. Turn it off in order to get sharper images. (This tip goes not only for shooting fireworks, but is valid any time you shoot off a tripod.)
- To capture the best effects from bursts, exposure times will usually be about half a second and four seconds but judge it as you see it. For ISO 100, photography expert John Hedgecoe recommends trying 4 seconds at f5.6.
- When taking a reading for exposure, don’t point the camera at the center of the light source; if you do, the shot risks being underexposed and the trails of light will be faint. Instead, experiment with a range of shutter speeds and if it’s possible, bracket the exposure.
- To use auto focus in the dark of night, try to first take a picture of lights on the horizon. Then when you set off the next exposure into the pitch black of night the lens will already be set at infinity. Also, try starting the long exposure when there is a large fireworks burst. The auto focus may work on this pattern and therefore ensure that a subsequent burst during the exposure will be in focus too.
- For a wide angled shot of fireworks in a setting such as a well lighted cityscape, judge the height of the first few fireworks bursts and use that as a reference for framing the whole scene. Vary the exposure times set on your tripod-locked camera so that it captures both single and multiple fireworks bursts.
Sources and Citations : http://www.wikihow.com/Photograph-Fireworks