Have you ever tried to snap a picture of a fireworks display and ended up with a bright rainbow squiggle or completely dark frame? Photographing fireworks is a bit of a daunting task for some. Once you know the basics you will be able to capture the classic images and have the skills to experiment and make them creatively unique to you. Below you’ll find a list to get you on your way, so grab your camera and head out to Alton Baker, Island Park or The Eugene Rodeo and hone your firework photography skills!
- Bring a tripod. Firework photos require long exposures, sometimes several seconds. If you are trying to hold your camera by hand you’ll end up with lots of brightly colored squiggles from the movement, but no breath-taking fireworks. Setting the tripod so that it is secure is also important. Keeping the legs short and level will help avoid camera shake from wind or from you adjusting the camera itself.
- Manually Focus. There are two main ways to go about this. One method is to autofocus on something that is a great distance away, such as buildings that will be in your shot or a bright star, or even on the first set of fireworks and then switch it over to manual. The other way (and my preferred method) is to turn the lens to manual focus and turn the focus ring to infinity (∞) and leave it there. Fireworks are generally far enough away that this will work just fine.
- Use low ISO. This is your camera’s light sensitivity. Set it low to a number between 100-200 to avoid getting grainy noisy photos. This will also help force a longer shutter speed if your camera does not have manual controls.
- Slow Shutter Speed. If your camera has manual controls set it to Shutter priority (Tv) or to Manual (M) and select a shutter speed that is a few seconds long. If you are setting your aperture in manual f/8-f/16 will usually serve you well and can be adjusted as needed. If your camera has a Bulb (B) setting and you have a remote definitely use this. Set your aperture between f/8 and f/16 and open the shutter to capture the entire firework and then click the button to close. Adjust aperture settings as needed for desired brightness (f/5.6 will give you brighter skies, f/16 will be much darker)
- Remote/Timer. If you have a remote for your camera use it. If not set the 2 second timer. by doing this you avoid any camera shake that may happen when you press the shutter button.
- No Flash. Unless you are lighting a subject in your foreground I would advise you to turn it off. Even if you ARE lighting a foreground subject you may want to use a flashlight rather than a flash for a more interesting painted effect.
Last but not least once you’ve had a chance to figure out what settings you really like take some time to get creative. Think about interesting compositions, light painting your foreground or maybe adding longer or shorter exposures to manipulate your images. Flexing your creative muscles to personalize your images is one of the greatest joys of photography. Good luck and Happy Independence day!!
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