Monday, July 2, 2012

How To Photograph Fireworks

Fireworks Over Lake #1 - Lake Isabella, California
Fireworks are not hard to photograph, but for those who don't know it may seem difficult. You don't need any special camera, although some cameras will make your job easier than others.

You'll be making long exposures, so you need the camera to be steady. You will need to set the camera on a tripod, or, if you don't have one, find a flat and sturdy surface and use the camera's self-timer to avoid shake.
Fireflower - Goodyear, Arizona
If your camera has a manual mode, you'll want to use that. If not, you can use either shutter-priority or aperture-priority mode. If your camera doesn't have that, look for a fireworks setting or some kind of night-mode setting.

The important thing is having a long exposure of (typically) 5 to 30 seconds, depending on how bright the fireworks and scene are and the camera settings. The fireworks will draw on your image as they climb and then burst and fall.
Fireworks Over Lake #2 - Lake Isabella, California
Because digital cameras don't react to dark scenes all that well, you should have the ISO set to as low as possible. Even with a low ISO, you still might have a "noisy" photograph, depending on your camera. Also, many cameras will struggle to auto-focus, so there's a good chance you will have to manually focus. If you can auto-focus, focus on something far away.

If your camera has a manual mode or aperture-priority mode, set the aperture to an appropriate f-stop, probably no smaller than f-11 for a scene with depth (like the lake photographs above) and no smaller than f-8 for the flat scenes (like Fireflower). More important than the aperture is the shutter speed, and you'll need to experiment to find the right length, but it will be somewhere between 5 and 30 seconds.
Red, White And Blue - Lake Isabella, California
If your camera has a shutter-priority mode, set the shutter to the appropriate length and let the camera choose the f-stop for you. If the camera has a fireworks mode or night mode, the camera will do the work for you, but you may need to change the exposure (either longer or shorter) by adjusting the exposure compensation.

Because there is no exact science with this, it will take a few tries to get it right. Try making longer and shorter exposures. Experiment until you get the results you desire.

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