The 4th of July is this week and in the United States of America that mean parades, cookouts, and fireworks. I’m sharing a few tips on how to capture those wonderful pyrotechnics used to celebrate our Independence.
Start off by getting there early and looking for a place with a good view of where the action is going to be. Look for background and foreground. The background can be simply a nice blank sky and the foreground could include the crowd around you. Keep in mind that some people start arriving two hours before the show starts, so getting there early is key to securing a good spot. Arriving early will also give you a chance to set your focus before it gets dark.
There are a couple of reasons to use a tripod during firework photography. One reason is to keep the camera from adding unwanted blur, another is to allow you to enjoy the show without looking through the camera the whole time. It can be tiring holding a camera for the length of the show. Please remember to try and place your tripod in a place as to not cause others harm. You wouldn’t want anyone tripping as they walk by.
Remote or Cable Release
To reduce camera shake it’s a good idea to trigger the camera either with a cable release or a wireless remote. I have used my finger and just tried to roll it gently across the shutter release button. It worked okay, but a cable was so much easier.
Setting your cameras ISO to the lowest native setting will cut down on the digital noise that can be produced with a higher ISO. Usually the native ISO is 100 or 200 depending on the camera manufacture.
There are a couple of ways to work with shutter speed. The first is to set the shutter speed for bulb mode and use a cable release to hold the shutter open while the fireworks explode. Bulb mode gives you control over when the shutter opens and closes. The second way is to set the speed somewhere between 2 and 10 seconds. Whichever you choose it will talk a little tweaking to get the look you want.
Start with the aperture set to f/5.6 or f/8. These setting give the light trails of the firework a really nice look. If the aperture is too wide the trails can be over exposed; if it is too small the trails can be very thin.
Make sure your flash is turned off. It does not have enough power to help with these type of photographs and will only decrease your battery life.
Another way to make your battery last a little longer while out shooting is by not using live view mode. Live view is great for video but using the LCD drains the battery much faster than looking through the view finder.
Auto focus will have a very hard time in the dark, so manually focusing the lens will be you best bet. Make sure to turn OFF your auto focus.
Long Exposure Noise Reduction
Make sure to turn off the long exposure noise reduction. Some cameras take a second dark photo to use when noise reduction is on, so leaving it on might double the time between shots and cause much frustration. I’ve experienced this frustration first hand.
Shoot both horizontal/landscape and vertical/portrait orientation. Also try different focal lengths.
The above tips are a starting point for you. Use them and adjust to get the look you want. Don’t forget to enjoy the show! If you’re not getting the look you want, step back from the camera and just watch for a minute or two.
Have a great 4th of July!