Saturday, July 03, 2010

How To Take Pictures of Fireworks On A Budget!

There are fireworks tutorials all over the internet. Scott Kelby, New York Institute of Photography, Shutterfly's Picture More Blog, Digital Photography School, Wired's How To Wiki, and countless others have advice on shooting fireworks.  Here's a quick summary of the basics they all suggest:
  1. Shoot on a tripod.
  2. Use an aperture of f/8 to f/11.
  3. Focus on infinity. (turn off autofocus settings)
  4. Select a low ISO. 
  5. Leave your shutter open for a long time to capture multiple bursts.
  6. Shoot a lot.
  7. Shoot early in the show to avoid all of the smoke toward the end.
  8. Have fun.
Opinions differ on lens choice. A long lens will help you get closer while a wide angle lens can give you more context. I've shot with telephoto, zoom, and my 50mm because it's what I had at the time. The most important thing? Have fun! Enjoy the show and the moment. Consider capturing your children's faces as they see the fireworks too, just remember that you've lowered your ISO for the fireworks!

A table top display at our block party. 
ISO 100 | 40mm | f/22 | ss 1/8

The best part of photographing fireworks is that you can get away with many different settings to get different results. 

What if you don't have a tripod? What if you only have the kit lens? What to do? What if you have no idea what all of those numbers above mean?

Here are some basic steps that will still get you great results. In both methods, you are going to bump your ISO up so you can get a bit faster shutter speed and still hand hold. This is not the only way to go about it, just a few of the many options!

In Aperture Priority mode. You are not going to get the long light trails as much, but you will get results. 
  1. Select an ISO of 800-1000.
  2. Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode (AV or A).
  3. Select an aperture of f/5.6.
  4. Your camera will select the shutter speed.
  5. Set your camera to the fastest drive mode, so you can fire off multiple frames.
  6. Shoot away! Your shutter speed's will vary based upon the available light, but you will capture something you'll like!
ISO 1250 | 50mm | f/2.5 | ss1/200

In Shutter Priority mode, you can set the shutter to something hand holdable and shoot away as well.
  1. Select an ISO of 800-1000.
  2. Set your camera to Shutter Priority (TV or S).
  3. Select a shutter speed of 1/100, this will avoid camera shake, and not stop all motion.
  4. Your camera will select the Aperture.
  5. Focus on infinity.
  6. Shoot!

Take heart, even if you set your camera on a wider aperture with a shutter speed fast enough to be hand held, you'll get results you'll like!

If you do have a tripod, you can have fun playing with lights! Everyone at my house likes getting into the sparkler action.

To photograph light play:

  1. Set your camera up on a solid surface, any solid surface will do. An ice chest could work beautifully!
  2. Set your ISO to 100.
  3. Set your Aperture to f/11.
  4. Set your focus on infinity.
  5. Set your shutter speed for 1 second or more, the longer the shutter speed is open, the more they can write.
  6. Shoot using the self timer to avoid blur from camera shake!

ISO 100 | 21mm | f/11 | shutter speed one second

If you are clicking on links to other tutorials, the Wired Wiki has the most thorough information!

Have fun, shoot lots and see what you get! Be safe and have a great Fourth of July!


Mindy said...

Thanks for the tips - can't wait to see what I can capture tonight!

Leslie said...

Thanks for tips Katrina! That is great.


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