Tips for getting spectacular fireworks photos

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tips for getting spectacularphotos
By Wayne Hinshaw
For the Salisbury Post
Follow these tips to take great fireworks photos:
• Equipment you will need:
1. Adjustable digital camera with extra memory cards, batteries and a tripod
2. A small flashlight helps you see the camera controls
3. A small folding chair makes the fireworks show more comfortable.
• Location selection:
1. Pick a spot where trees and tall buildings don’t block your view of the sky.
2. Watch out for power and telephone lines running across your view.
3. If a historic building or landmark is part of the show, you might want to include it.
4. Anticipate where in the sky the fireworks burst will explode and aim your camera accordingly.
5. You don’t want people jumping or standing in front of your camera lens.
• Flash:
1. You usually want to turn the flash off on the camera since it will be of no use aimed at the sky.
2. If you want to include family members in the foreground, then you might want to keep the flash turned on. Getting the proper amount of camera flash on the family members is tricky and difficult, but you can make it work with a little trial and error. Maybe a lot of error until you get it correct.
• Manual camera is best:
1. With your fully automatic point-and-shoot camera, it will be very difficult to get nice photos of a fireworks show.
2. You cannot set the proper exposure and shutter speeds on an automatic camera. In the dark at a great distance from the fireworks, the camera cannot function properly automatically.
3. Some point-and-shoot cameras have a setting for fireworks shows as an option under the scenic settings that might get you some photos.
4. Set your manual camera shutter speed to “bulb.” Focus on “infinity.”
5. Use a normal lens (50 mm or so) or a zoom or telephoto lens (100 mm up to 200 mm or so). The longer the telephoto lens, the harder it is to compose your photos because you are shooting tighter and tighter.
6. Photos can be framed vertically or horizontally.
• Use low ISO settings (film speed).
Fireworks burst are very intense. The low ISOs of 50 to 200 are usually best in that they limit the bright light hitting the sensor in the digital camera.
• Holding the camera steady is a must:
1. Use a tripod to hold the camera steady
2. Focus the camera on infinity and leave it there on your manual camera.
3. Set your manual camera aperture between f/5.6 and f/11.
• When to shoot the photo:
1. Set your camera on “Bulb.” The shutter will remain open until you release the button.
2. Push the shutter button when you hear the fireworks shell launched. Hold the button until you capture the entire burst of light. Most bursts will last 2-5 seconds. Some bursts will go a few second longer.
3. If you want more than one fireworks burst on a single image frame, keep the camera shutter open and cover the front of the camera lens with a black card or black foam board. Don’t move or shake the camera. Remove the board when you hear the next shell launch. Don’t try to get more than three launches on a frame.
4. If you hold your shutter open too long, you will over-expose the image. As long as the shutter is open on bulb, you are exposing the image whether there are fireworks bursts or not.
• Keep your fingers crossed for good luck.
Luck plays a big part in fireworks photography, along with some guesswork.
Fireworks photos require more guesswork and luck than any other kind of photography. You have to shoot the photos and make lots of corrections as you go. Take lots of photos because many of them will be bad.
With digital, you have no processing cost. Shoot, shoot and shoot more. After you take a few photos, check your camera monitor to see if you need to make adjustments to your exposure settings. Use your flashlight to see to make the setting changes. Keep checking the monitors images and making corrections every few photos.
Once you get the images on the monitor looking good, go with those settings.