Thursday, 29 December 2011

Photographing Fireworks

By Danielle Lancaster

It's that time of the year again when the champagne corks will pop, kisses are shared, resolutions are made and the fireworks will explode!
So you have your camera in hand now how on earth do you photograph all that colourful light in the sky?

There's no great trick to it and usually no matter what type of camera you have you can capture something of the light show.

Do I need a tripod?
For the best results yes! The tripod head needs to be able to support your camera and the heaviest lens you have in a vertical position. If you forget your tripod, relax and try some hand holding abstract images: drawing with the camera shapes and letters, zooming in and out during an exposure, the options are endless and can create some bizarre one-of-a-kind images.

What lens? 
This is a hard one as each lens has negatives and positives. With a wide angle you can include other points of interest like a landscape or cityscape in your image. An object that is recognisable such as a statue or monument can really look awesome.
With a zoom you can capture one burst standing solitary in the sky and eliminate  other objects that could become distracting like bright lights or even worse the backs of people's heads.
ISO 160; f3.5; 6 sec; 32mm
Position, position, position
As they say in the property game location is the key, it's the same photographing fireworks. Areas can get very busy especially at times like New Year Eve celebrations and it is not un-heard of to hear of photographers 'camping' on a site for a day before the event to secure their prime sought after position. Up higher is generally better.

Watch the wind.
It is preferable to get up wind as then the smoke will blow away from you. Still night's can be as bad as those when the wind is blowing towards you, as the smoke lingers longer in the air and is notably worse after multiple bursts. Yes you can edit it afterwards but it can also be a lot of work.

Smoke hanging around can really ruin a good fireworks image.
Manual mode; 28mm; ISO 200; f9; 2.6sec

Before and after of an image where PS has been used to reduce the smoke.
ISO 200; f20; 6.7sec
What colours are best?
Reds and greens photograph brilliantly. Some gold fireworks photograph as white so it's a good idea to play with your white balance as well.

Take your UV filter off and switch image stabilisation/vibration reduction off.

Shoot in manual mode and set your camera to Bulb. Choose a low ISO say 100 to 200. Generally we find we are shooting at an aperture of around f8 - f16. Use a cable release to control your shutter times.

Most importantly have fun and if you have managed to do all the above whilst juggling a glass of bubbly in one hand after the midnight show, then please let us know! 

Image by Sheryn Ellis
Canon 5D
ISO 200; f13; 4 sec; 25mm

Bluedog Photography shoot for corporate and private clients. They also hold a variety of workshops and courses on Photography. 
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