At this time of year, fireworks seem to be everywhere. We use them to celebrate special occasions, and they look spectacular against the night sky. That’s why we enjoy seeing them in the winter, with more time for displays that light up the darkness. They can also make stunning photographs, so long as you know how to capture them. Here’s how to photograph fireworks.
Choose your location
First off, you need to decide where to stand. It won’t do any good to stand in a crowd of people in most circumstances. They might block your view, especially if you are on lower ground. What you need is a good vantage point where you can get a clear view of the sky. You need to be sure that there is nothing between you and the fireworks that might block them, such as a tall building. You should also try to stay away from lights as much as possible. A bright glow near your camera might affect your sensor and could throw off your settings, especially if you are relying on some form of automatic mode.
Bring your gear
Once you have decided where to shoot from, it’s time to get yourself set up to work. While any DSLR with any lens could technically do the job, you’ll need to be a little more specific when it comes to getting stunning shots. A zoom lens is normally required to get a little closer and have the fireworks fill your frame. The more advanced your DSLR, the more features it will have to help you. These will include a bigger sensor which can handle darkness better, as well as anti-shake reduction and better viewfinder tools. If you want to take longer exposures or need to set up for a long display, you should also consider using a tripod to keep it all steady.
Time your shots
With fireworks, the big bang is often not the most spectacular part of the explosion. It’s a moment later, when the colours spread across the sky, that you need to look out for. Of course, the colours start to fade immediately, so you do need to be ready. You can start to time your shots carefully by noting how far up and how long the fireworks go before they burst. Some will last for a shorter and some for a longer time. By getting a sense for them, however, you can predict most of them. That allows you to snap the shutter right in time. If you are worried about timing, switch to a high continuous shutter mode. This means that you will be able to hold down the trigger and take lots of photographs in quick succession. You can later go back and choose the ones that you prefer.
Adjust your settings
To get the perfect shot, you normally aim for a black sky with the bright fireworks illuminated clearly. They will be frozen in time sharply, as if suspended forever. You can change things around if you like – some people prefer to use motion blur, for example, to get the sense of movement in the fireworks. If you want to freeze the action, however, you can change your settings to get this effect. Try setting a fast shutter speed so that the action is frozen. Keep your ISO down to around 200 if you can so that there is not too much noise in the frame. You can set up around f/11 and then see how it looks. If the shot is too bright, close your aperture down a bit. If you find that the photographs are too dark, open your aperture up instead. Turn off your autofocus, as it can mess up the shot at a critical moment. Instead, use manual focus and simply focus on infinity to get every shot as sharp as possible.
Use your accessories
There are some other tools that you can use to make sure your shots turn out right. A shutter release cable can really help to keep your camera steady, which is great if you are going for those longer exposures. It will also help you to keep comfortable during a longer display if you want to keep shooting. There’s nothing worse than back pain preventing you from capturing everything! Finally, consider a piece of black cardboard if you are shooting on bulb. Hold it in front of the lens as you press the shutter, then move it away when you are ready to start exposing. Move it in front again before you release the shutter. This will give more control to the shot and eliminate camera shake as you press the button.
Do it in Photoshop
Of course, if you just want to add fireworks to an existing image, there’s a much easier way of going about it. Just turn on Photoshop! This doesn’t require any tricky timing or bits of kit that you may not have. Use the Summerana firework overlays to bring that bit of sparkle to any photograph. Adding fireworks can make that senior photograph all the more dramatic, or add a whole lot of romance to those wedding pictures. You can even use them to add fireworks back in if you missed taking them in the moment. It’s super easy to add fireworks in, and doesn’t require a lot of technical knowhow. There are all kinds of shapes as well as colours in the collection so that you can match up the firework that works best for your shot. This means that you will never be lacking that extra drama and sparkle when your photograph calls for it!
Have you got any favourite tips for taking photographs of fireworks? How about an image that you saved by adding in the Summerana fireworks collection? Share all in the comments!