Recently I was asked to write down some tips for photographing fireworks. Seemed simple enough, yet if one were to google "Tips for Photographing Fireworks," it is pretty straight forward and basically the same information from everyone. So why do it again?
First,because I was asked. Second, because I am really a fusion of old school ways and new school technology. I am no wiz at photoshop; I can barely use it past processing raw files. High Dynamic Range? I'd like to try it. So maybe my tips would be useful to most people and less useful to those that find post production processing more fun.
It is said that one is good at something they know well and are comfortable with. I am neither good or comfortable photographing Fireworks but I know them well and have known them from being born into a family that once took pride in coming "ALL" together for the sake of the business and the artistry of Fireworks making and showmanship.
So when I photograph Fireworks I let my intuitive self take over, for once it is dark and the show begins you just have to go with it.
Tip number one
- Use a tripod. Not possible to photograph without one. Well not impossible but not possible for the quality I am looking for.Just breathing will cause camera shake. Even a cell phone can be used if it is held up with an after market tripod of some kind.
Tip number two
- Use a cable release or a remote cable release. Touching the camera can cause shaky photographs. I have gotten away without one in a pinch but I had to really try hard to only tap my finger lightly.
Tip number three
- Eliminate some variables. My husband Dan and I like to use f 8 and an ISO of 100.
I am sure if you wanted to you could use some other combination of f stop and ISO. These are just what we have always used.The higher the ISO the more image noise you will get. Noise meaning, the look of film graininess over your image.
Tip number four
- This is where Dan and I differ and I let the new technology run free. Dan uses the bulb setting and counts or guesses how many bursts of fireworks he likes then closes the shutter. The bulb setting is where the shutter opens and stays open until you manually close it. You can count it out for a few seconds or look for a few burst in the night sky then close the shutter. It is guess work with a bit of luck and creative intuition.
Now personally, I use the aperture priority setting, set at f 8 and an ISO of 100. I let my damn fine, spanking new, digital wonder open and close at will and l have some mighty fine photography that renders small snippets of the display pretty accurately and beautifully.
Tip number five
-I always photograph raw files and process with software.
I mean why not have all the information to decide what to do with later. But if you can't, or find raw files too much, one can still render some great fireworks with fine or jpeg. Like I said, it is a bit of knowledge mixed with a bit of luck and creative intuition.
Louise Erdeljohn Photography