Most photographers, whether hobbyists or professionals, will tell ?you that they are always looking for new and interesting things to do that challenge them. Whether it’s learning a new technique, or pushing their boundaries to try something different, most of us are always looking for something that will help us improve our craft. For me, it happened last night – I decided I would try my hand at photographing fireworks for the first time.
Photographing Fireworks – the Gear and the Settings
That’s not to say I’ve never taken a photo during a fireworks show. But I’ve never once utilized one of my DSLR cameras when photographing fireworks. Last night, I knew there was?a fireworks display scheduled that would be clearly visible from our home. With that in mind, about 20 minutes before show time, I started setting up. Other than the camera, I really only utilized two pieces of equipment. My old, heavy Ravelli tripod and a remote shutter release.
In order to keep it simple, I plugged in my remote shutter release, set my camera to Bulb mode (B stands for bulb. Believe it or not, it doesn’t stand for “best!”) and utilized manual focus. The last thing I wanted was for the camera trying to focus on a fast moving object in the night sky. I?set my ISO to 100 and my F-stop to 11. I chose these settings to minimize “noise” and to have a nice, sharp field of focus throughout the frame. Since I was in bulb mode, I controlled the exposure time for each image.
I focused on a section of sky where I knew the fireworks would be visible and then I waited.
Photographing Fireworks – Taking the Shot
I was confident that my chosen settings would work and I knew the tripod and remote shutter release combination would keep the camera stable with very little, if any camera shake. From there, it was all about the timing.
Truth be told, it was very simple. I knew I wanted not just a frozen explosion in the sky, but I also wanted light trails to show the movement and shape of the fireworks. If I had been closer, I could have taken advantage of the sound – start my exposure with the sound of the launch, end it at the end of the explosion. This would result in an average exposure time of about 6 seconds. When using the Neewer remote shutter release?with the camera in Bulb mode,?it is literally as simple as pressing and holding the button for the amount of time I wish. Or, take advantage of the built in slide that will hold the shutter open for you. This came in handy a little later, when I wanted to capture multiple bursts in one shot, with exposures going as long as 14 seconds. I activated the sound on the remote, so it would beep at me for each passing second.
Since I was too far away for the sound of each launch to benefit me, I relied on visual cues. I would press the shutter release the moment I saw a streak heading into the sky and hold down the release for the duration of the burst. Usually these exposures were in the 4 – 6 second range. This allowed for the desired effect of not just freezing the burst, but giving it shape and color.
Photographing Fireworks -?Simple Summary
Camera settings – don’t shoot with a wide open aperture. It lets in too much light. Somewhere around F/11 is ideal.
Keep your ISO as low as possible. In my case that’s ISO 100. Lower ISO = less noise and less noise = cleaner photos that require less editing!
Utilize Bulb mode – that way you have full, manual control of each exposure.
Use a tripod!
A remote shutter release is ideal because it allows you to get your shot without touching the camera, which prevents camera shake. I use an inexpensive Neewer remote shutter release?or Triggertrap that gives me control via an app on my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy, in my case, but also works with iPhones).
Hopefully this gives you an idea of how simple it is to start photographing fireworks with beautiful results. You don’t need the most expensive gear. Just a little knowledge goes a long way! If you find these tips useful, I’d love to hear from you in the comments!