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Fireworks photography

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Fireworks photography is the process of taking photographs of fireworks at night. It is a type of night photography, specifically using available light of the fireworks instead of artificial light. Without using the flash on the camera, the photographer often exposes the image for a period of time, known as long exposure.[1][2] Brighter fireworks sometimes support shorter exposure times.

Exposing the image for long periods of time, requires that the camera is held as steady as possible by the photographer, as slight movements will result in notable camera shake. The most common and effective equipment used to prevent camera shake for long image exposures are a good sturdy tripod along with a remote shutter release (avoiding to have to touch the camera when taking the shot).

Another challenge the photographer faces with exposure timing is having to estimate how long to expose the image in relation to when the firework bursts. Opening the shutter just before the firework bursts and then closing it after its finished would provide the ideal timing for capturing that 'perfect moment'. This can be achieved by setting the camera to 'b' or 'bulb' whereby exposure times are under the direct control of the photographer through the shutter release button.[3]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • 16 Tips For How To Shoot Fireworks
  • Digital Photography 1 on 1: Episode 19: Shooting Fireworks
  • How to photograph fireworks


Jared Polin, and I have 16 tips – that’s not 16 – but 16 tips to help you get better fireworks images and these are in no particular order so let’s get to the list. Have a tripod. You need a tripod when it comes to shooting fireworks. You need a stable platform to capture these images because as we’re going to find out with exposure later you need to shoot at slower shutter speeds which means you can't hand hold or you can but the results may be a little bit shaky so a very stable tripod or a moderately stable tripod is a good recommendation to have. Also, you don’t want to put the tripod so close to the ground just in case somebody stands in front of you because a lot of times people are either standing or around and they could walk in front of your camera and you don’t want that happening when you are shooting fireworks. Get to your location early, find your spot, and own it. Yes, I want you to own it, I want you to put your name on it, take some chalk, write it down on the ground or spray paint it on to the grass, but that is your spot for the night. The reason you want to get there early is because you know it's going to be busy and you know there’s going to be a lot of people there so you want to find the location that is going to be best for shooting the fireworks that you have. A recommendation for how you can own your spot? Well you could bring somebody else with you to spread out or you could bring a blanket, if you're allowed to put it down, it owns your square. That is your square, you own it, you protect it because you don’t want somebody eight feet tall blocking your view, standing in front of you. What lens should I use? Well I like using the 24 to 70 on the wider side on an FX body and if I was to shoot with a DX body I would probably shoot something like a 17 to 50 millimeter lens. Now the reason I do that is because I think ultra wide angle lens unless you're really close to what you're shooting or you're going for a specific scene probably won't show the fireworks as well as you could capture them and I definitely don’t recommend a fisheye lens unless you really want to take one fisheye pic. I'll allow you to shoot one fisheye picture if you really want but generally speaking somewhere in the range of 24 millimeters to 40-something millimeters depending on what you're shooting will benefit you the most. So it all depends on the situation so each situation is going to be different so try it out, see what works for you, but don’t be afraid to switch lenses from wide to a little bit tighter when shooting your fireworks. Should I shoot horizontically or vertically? Well it's personal preference. For those shots that you want to get the whole trajectory, yes, that’s right, the trajectory of the mortar before it explodes well then you want to try to go vertical to show the whole thing and to get the explosion and to get the lights going that you can track it. But I sometimes like going with the horizontical when I'm shooting up in the sky where I just want to get the explosion because I feel that the horizontical works much better for shooting. So try them both – vertical, horizontical – you decide what works best for you. Where should my ISO be? Should it be really high because we’re outside in the pitch black or ultra darkness? No, I like to keep it around 100 or 200, depending on what your camera could do. The lower it is the better you're going to be. You have to remember that fireworks are really bright so there’s no need to up your ISO to try to compensate for that because the fireworks are very, very bright. What should my aperture be? Well I like to shoot somewhere around f8 to f16 and a lot’s going to depend on your situation and what you're in. I found that f13 has worked well for me for what I've been shooting. But what you're going to need to do is take some sample images and if they're too dark well then you need to open up to let more light in and if they're too bright you need to close down to cut back on the amount of light that you're letting in so that the fireworks show up much better. Now for those thinking that you need to have an f1.4, and f2.8 lens that doesn’t matter here. When you're in the f8, f11, f16 range every lens is going to do that so you don’t need the best of the best of the best class with honors to try to shoot fireworks. Should I shoot on aperture priority or should I shoot on full auto? Neither – manual is the way to go. You are going to want to set your manual exposure for this because the camera won't be able to determine what it should shoot the fireworks at because it's just happening way too quick and the meter is going to get way thrown off by the bright lights followed by the darkness so manual is where you should be. So what shutter speed should I be using? Well I like to use bold mode, that’s signified by a B in your camera, and most cameras do have that today. So what is actually going on here? When you press the shutter button and you hold it down as long as you're pressing your finger down on the shutter the shutter stays open. As soon as you release it, boom, the shutter is going to close. So you are figuring out the exposure and how long it should stay open. My suggestion is anywhere from two and a half seconds to five/six seconds. You're going to have to feel it out to see what works best for you or to see if you want to track something that’s bright going throughout the sky for longer or whether you just want to get the explosion at the end in the sky. If you're going for the explosion in the sky wait for that mortar to launch and then press the shutter, hold it down, get the explosion, and then before anything else goes off close it down, as in take your finger off the button. I suggest investing in a cable release. Now these don’t have to be terribly too expensive. It's a cable that plugs into the camera and puts the shutter button right in your hand so when you press it you can control that bold setting yourself. And what you're not doing is pressing down on the camera which could give it some shake which could then translate into your images. But as a little secret all the images that you see on the poster in this video I didn’t actually have a cable release, I just pressed the button and held it there myself. Anticipation – that’s right, you want to anticipate the explosions going off. Do you want to show the entire trajectory or do you just want to get that big explosion in the sky or do you want to have multiple fireworks going off? Well, anticipate, these things happen. When that mortar shoots off press down the shutter button, as soon as it explodes leave it open until it just starts to fade away and then you're going to get that entire process that’s going on. But this is a trial and error thing, you're going to feel this out for yourself and just play around, but anticipate what is going on. Are there going to be a lot of fireworks going off, because at the very end all the fireworks go off, do you want to get just a little bit of that or do you want to get a lot of that? That’s up to you. Turn off auto focus. Because how do we focus on the fireworks? Well, one rule of thumb that people say is you could turn the lens to infinity, that’s that sideways 8 thing, and then pull back just a little bit and then you should have everything in focus. One thing that I found works for me is when that first firework goes off my camera’s already set to manual on the lens and everything so that it's not auto focusing and I'll look at the back of the screen and I'll use the light in the sky to focus the lens, lock that in, and then I'm good to go with my manual focus. Composite in post – that’s right, if you like using Photoshop and you want to have one large scene with so many different fireworks going off you could always composite those layers together in Photoshop. That’s a good idea if you want to show an entire cityscape with a lot of fireworks going off because there are so many of them that do go off. Bring a chair. Yes, it sounds simple, but you're going to be sitting on your ass for quite a while because you're going to own your spot, you want to make sure that you have something to sit on. So whether it's a pad on the ground or a chair always bring a chair. Flashlight – you should have a flashlight? Why? Because it's going to be dark. What happens if you have to look for something in your bag or you drop something? How are you going to find it in the dark? Are you going to sit there with your cell phone trying to light it up? No, you need to have a flashlight so you can change the settings on your camera, so that you can pick up something if you drop it, or if you could shine it in somebody’s eyes if they get in your way – but have a flashlight. If it's the summer bring water, bring your own water so you don’t have to pay $27 for a little bottle of water. It's going to be hot but have that water just so that you can drink it. I know it sounds simple but bring some water. Bring some ear plugs. If you're sensitive to noise and loud sounds and explosions you may want to put some ear protection in to protect your ears. Don’t just shoot the fireworks. Are there kids sitting around there? Could you imagine getting a shot of a kid looking up in awe at the fireworks and then getting the reflection of a firework in the kid’s eyes? How amazing would that picture be? Sure, get those firework shots that you want to get but if you're shooting multiple nights of fireworks maybe focus on the families or the animals or the people at the park having a good time and try to get one of those reflections in the eyes of a child. Relax, stay clam when you're shooting. If you're more nervous you have a better chance of messing things up so just stick with your gut, understand what your settings and everything that should be that I've already mentioned so that when it's time to go to work and get those firework shots you're not freaking out trying to mess with your settings. Just change one thing at a time if you need to make changes because you don’t want to start changing multiple things and then screw yourself up when the fireworks are going off. And finally, remember, it's not like this only happens one time a year, well maybe it happens twice. So just enjoy it, have fun, learn from the experience, go out there and capture some amazing images. So there you guys have it, that’s 16 tips, at least I hope it was 16 tips, for how to get better fireworks images. Now go ahead, click up on the screen right now, that’s going to take you over to the site so that you can read in more detail so more information about each one of these tips. But I also have some videos and sample images from past firework shows that I have shots. So there you have it, have fun, be careful, stay safe, and capture some great fireworks images. Jared Polin See ya.


The following samples are ordered from longer to shorter exposure time.


  1. ^ Exposure Time - Digital Fireworks Photography
  2. ^ "Smithsonian Photographers Shoot Fireworks". Archived from the original on 2007-06-11. Retrieved 2007-12-06.
  3. ^ Photographing Fireworks

External links

This page was last edited on 25 June 2020, at 00:07
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