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Whatever the season, fireworks have always been used to mark big events. Photographing these fireworks can be tricky but in this article are some tips to get the best pictures possible.

Fireworks Photography Fundamental 1 -- A Slow Shutter Speed.

A skyrocket takes time from the moment it's launched until the last burst of its color fades. As the rocket sails skyward, the crowd has time to exclaim "Ooh!" Then as it explodes in a burst

of trails of color, the crowd has time to exclaim, "Ahh!" From launch to fadeout takes a few seconds perhaps ending with a stirring "bang." Your exposure, therefore, should be long enough

to capture part, or all, of this time-consuming progression.

Shooting with a digital camera is somewhat like shooting slide film. If you're not careful, you can overexpose and lose detail and color in the highlights. Since fireworks are, by definition,

highlights, using a digital camera to capture them can be tricky.

How long should your exposures for fireworks photos be? At least one second, sometimes two seconds, and some even longer. Shorter exposures don't always capture the full burst and

longer exposures tend to produce washed-out results. For example, if you were to set your exposure for, say, 1/500th, not only will the lens be open for only a fraction of the rocket's

progression, but the exposure may also be too brief to record any image at all! If you have a B (Bulb) shutter speed setting you can use it to control exactly how long your shutter is open.

This is a great option. The trick is to open the shutter right at the beginning of the burst and close it when it reaches its peak. Anticipating the explosion can be difficult, but not impossible.

If you don't have a B setting you can choose a fixed setting, such as 1 second.

The best way to tackle a long exposure will depend primarily on what kind of camera you're using. Let's examine how this works with different types of cameras.

DSLR Cameras

It's easy for you to select a long exposure time using a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera. If you're using a manual mode, you can select a long exposure time by setting the shutter for

one-to-thirty seconds or by using the B (or bulb) setting. You can also use the shutter priority mode to control the shutter speed. For the bulb setting you will need a cable release.

Digital Point-and-Shoot Models

You've got to hand it to camera designers -- they've dreamed up a number of exotic modes that appear on some camera models. What exactly is "party mode?" That's outside the scope of

this article, but there are a few cameras which feature a "fireworks mode" that will give a long exposure. Don't worry if your camera doesn't feature a whole host of "modes." Most of them

are baby steps for inexperienced photographers. If your camera has manual settings -- which most digital point-and-shoot models have, just figure it out using the manual or

trial-and-error going through the menus.

Fireworks Photography Fundamental 2 -- Choosing the right aperture.

What aperture should you use? Your f-stop will be based on the ISO you select. You might think that because the sky is so dark you need a wide aperture. Just the opposite is true. Remember, your objective is not to record the dark sky except as background. You want

to record the intensely bright streaks of color. Were you to use a wide open aperture during your timeexposure, you would probably overexpose the colors. Result: They would "burn out"

and lose coloration. To intensify the color, therefore, use a smaller aperture like f/8, or f/11, or even f/16. As with your choice of shutter speed, you will have to set your aperture manually.

Which you should use depends upon your digital camera's ISO setting (or the speed of your film), and the intensity of the color bursts. We suggest you bracket your shots, using different

apertures. Using one of the suggested apertures listed below, you can use your preview to test and then compensate the aperture accordingly.

This chart will work with most digital cameras that allow you to set shutter speed and aperture. Most of the sophisticated digital point-and-shoot models permit the photographer to set

these controls. If you've never done this before, you'll have to figure out how to use these controls by looking at your camera's instruction book. If you're using a digital SLR, then try these

settings too. Naturally, you'll check your results by reviewing your initial photos on your camera's LCD panel, until you get the exposure that looks best.

Fireworks Photography Fundamental 3 -- Setting the ISO

Typically, noise/grain is not a problem in this type of image. We recommend that you use ISO 200, or 400. The important point is that you don't need a very fast ISO; in fact super-fast ISOs

may overexpose the firework display. Very slow ISOs - for example, ISO 100 - may not be sensitive enough to capture the display. (Remember, while your shutter will be open for a second

or two or more, the actual appearance of the "rockets red glare" will last only a fraction of a second in any one place.)

Since many of today's digital SLRs offer good results at high ISOs such as 800, 1600 and 3200, why not use a faster ISO? The answer is simple - you don't need to. You want a long exposure

time, and as we've mentioned elsewhere, the bursts of the exploding fireworks are bright enough to etch themselves onto low ISO sensor settings such as 200 or 400, even with a

medium-size aperture setting. A higher ISO would just run the risk of overexposed washed out colors. We also suggest, because of the brightness of the fireworks vs. the dark night sky, that

you avoid using the "Auto ISO" setting, one that we don't use much anyway. For More Info visit :

How to take good pictures  

How to take good pictures

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