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- The Complete Guide to Digital Night & Low-Light Photography
- Complete Digital Photography
- Night Photography: Finding Your Way in the Dark
- Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques
Digital photography is a great technology for shooting fireworks. You can experiment and take plenty of pictures to capture the sharpest and most colorful images. Part 1 of this series of PhotographyTalk.com articles listed the first tips to help you become an expert fireworksc photographer. Part 2 presents the remaining tips.
Try More Than One Focal Length of Lens.
In most cases, you’ll want to shoot digital photos of fireworks with a wide focal length. The biggest reason is that initially you’ll find it difficult to frame the narrow airspace where the fireworks explode. You may even want to start with a wide-angle lens to learn how to frame correctly. You can always open your wide-angle fireworks pictures in photo-editing software to crop them tighter. Once you’ve trained your eye with a wider focal length, you can then try longer focal lengths. The best solution is probably a zoom lens that includes all the focal lengths selections you should ever need.
Close Your Aperture.
Although fireworks displays occur at night, your camera will read the light from their explosions as being brighter than you might think. The correct aperture settings tend to be in the mid-range, or smaller (which is the larger f-stops), f/8 to f/16.
Experiment with Shutter Speed Settings.
The shutter speed setting you use is also affected by the special nature of fireworks displays. You can either shoot at faster speeds to freeze the explosion of color or you can use the Bulb (B) setting, which reveals the motion of the falling balls of color and light. With the Bulb setting, the shutter remains open until you release it. Use a remote shutter release device, as explained in tip #2 in Digital Photography—Capturing a Spectacular Fireworks Show, Part 1.
Although some practice is required, the Bulb setting makes it a bit easier to capture that highlight moment of a fireworks display. At faster shutter speeds, you must be able to anticipate the action and trip the shutter just before that action occurs. You’ll still have to anticipate the explosion when using Bulb, but you don’t have to be so exact. Trigger the remote shutter release just before the explosion and keep the shutter open for three to five seconds until that explosion is done. Shoot plenty of digital photos with this technique and you’ll discover that you’ve taken some spectacular fireworks pictures. You can also try the burst, or continuous shooting, mode to help you capture the explosion at the right moment. Your best results will be with single bursts, instead of multiple bursts. Plus, you can overexpose the brightest part of the fireworks with multiple bursts.
Your ISO Is OK!
ISO is a number that represents the light sensitivity of your digital camera’s sensor. An ISO of 100 is typically “normal,” which is the best setting for your fireworks photos. That setting produces a sharp picture because the graininess of the image is fine.
No Flash Necessary.
A flash unit can only light a space a few feet in front of your camera, so it won’t have any effect on fireworks. If your flash remains in the on position, your camera’s electronics may automatically adjust your exposure to a shorter time.
To capture the best digital photos of fireworks, you’ll want to control exposure and focusing, manually. Many digital cameras don’t read low light very well in the automatic focusing mode. You shouldn’t have to change focus anyway because the fireworks will tend to explode within a narrow area of the sky. Plus, you’ll be using a smaller aperture opening (as mentioned above), which creates more depth of field. Of course, as soon as you change lens, you’ll have to re-focus that different focal length.
Check Your Progress.
To be sure you’ve captured the spectacular fireworks pictures you’ve envisioned in your mind, you want to check what you’ve shot periodically. The best strategy, however, is to stop after the first few photos to examine your results. You may miss a few explosions, but if you know your set-up is correct, then you’ll have more confidence to shoot a long series of images. Then, check your pictures and your set-up—tripod, remote shutter release, aperture, shutter speed, ISO and focus—two or three times during the rest of the fireworks show.
Look for Special Pictures.
Digital photos of fireworks displays are colorful and beautiful, but they are not the only interesting pictures to take during the celebration. Consider placing the silhouette of a couple or excited children in the lower foreground of your picture, with the fireworks across the top of the image. Shoot pictures of spectators’ reactions, especially if you can compose an image that captures a reflection of the fireworks in their eyes, glasses, etc.