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Submitted on
November 4, 2012
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With the 5th of November looming - and of course Christmas and New Year bringing the opportune moments for fireworks - it seemed useful to put together a small troubleshooting guide for those that are going to venture out with the camera. The 5th of November in the UK is known as Bonfire night - the day when, many years ago, the plot to blow up the houses of parliament was thwarted. Nowadays when officials discover a terrorist plot, they're pat on the back and life goes on. But back in those days, a  whole day was set aside for celebrating. And now, in the modern age, up to two weeks are spent setting off fireworks. So first and foremost, if you can - shoot it in RAW mode. It's great for after-tweaking and especially with white balance and sorting out flaws. We're drawing on the expertise of WhenPigsFry in order to give you as many tips as possible. He's part of a crew that puts on firework displays and thus sadly misses the chance to shoot them a lot of the time. However he has a wide range of we've combined to give you a mini 'how-to!'


:bulletblack: I'm stating the obvious but you're going to be using a long exposure. So you need a tripod, as much as I loath tripods, they are useful in this case. Any slight movement will result in a blurry photo so a tripod will keep your camera steady.

BULB Mode & Shutter Release Cable

:bulletblack: You need to set the shutter speed to Bulb mode. This will capture a firework trailing and or bursting in the sky. This is what you're going to be using the long exposure for! It's really tricky though, to learn where a firework is going to explode and where to point your camera. Using BULB mode will get around this problem. It will hold the shutter open for as long as your finger is pressed down on the button - or in this case, your remote shutter release cable thingy. You'll likely need that, it reduces the need to touch the camera - less blur. So, press down when the firework goes up and release when it explodes in the sky. If you can double expose or lock the shutter open and cover the lens with an object, you can get some neat effects and multiple bursts in the shot from successive fireworks. Be careful, fireworks are bright and can quickly overdevelop areas or all of your shot.


:bulletblack:Firework displays are bright - despite it being nighttime. Therefore a large aperture may cause overexposure in your photograph. Small apertures will control the brightness and bring out the best in your colours. There's not set rule but using an Aperture of around F8 if far away and F16 if nearer will suffice. Remember when you change Aperture, focal length changes too!


:bulletblack: Keep your ISO low - around about 100 more or less, should keep it low enough to reduce the grain and give you a cleaner image.


:bulletblack: You can zoom in, zoom out, shoot landscape or portrait - whatever - when it comes to fireworks. So get creative and learn what's best for you so that you can achieve the best results possible! Close-ups are good and can be amazing, but you'll also want to take some wider shots of surrounding elements to help frame the image and give it perspective.


:bulletblack: You'll kick yourself if you get home and realise that every shot you took has completely failed. Really. I've done it before. Check your results. Make sure you aren't flopping on every shot. Remember, you'll have some duds, that's why we take so many shots!


:bulletblack: Even though it is normally really dark anywhere you may be shooting fireworks, if you can, still use a lens hood to keep the risk light from the areas around you to a minimum.

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linderel Featured By Owner Mar 1, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Late comment is late! Going through all the stuff that's accumulated in my inbox the past few months...

I don't recall the model right now, but my mum bought this tiny little pocket camera last summer to take with her when she went to Madagascar. Me being me, I have to poke and prod at it and use it whenever possible. It's got all these exciting features... one of which is a fireworks mode. I got alright results with that on New Year's Eve, standing on the balcony and supporting myself on the railing. It just feels like cheating to use those modes! :noes:
Raph1966 Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2012  Student General Artist
I shot fireworks pics and using just auto focus lens/handheld camera, I'm lucky anything came out. ^^; (I didn't have a tripod at the time. The one I have now? HAHHAHAHAHAHA!!! Yeah. At least I got a shot of a meteor last night. :D For that, the piece of crap gets a reprieve)
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Dec 19, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
killythirsk Featured By Owner Nov 15, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
thank you for sharing!! :)
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Nov 18, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
No problem!
RandomSearcher Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012
Nice tips! I would add that the surroundings matter - fireworks look better when they have a good citycsape as a background. Although in this case you'd better have white balance set manually so that the background does not change colors ;) Also, I disagree on double exposure: you can combine sequential shots afterwards (esp. if you use a tripod), but if you get all the mess on a single shot you might ruin it.
Kaz-D Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2012  Hobbyist Photographer
Oh definitely :nod:
jo-i Featured By Owner Nov 6, 2012
Sometimes a way longer shot than you're used to might also look nice. But of course you're risking washed out colours and overblown whites.
RandomSearcher Featured By Owner Nov 7, 2012
Of course you can get a nice shot. I just believe that in firework photography it's much easier to get the same result during postprocessing than guess what you'll get beforehand.
AwkwardApartment Featured By Owner Nov 5, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Awesome! :D I could always use plenty of photography tips!
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