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Firework photography tips

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Category: Landscape and Travel

Photographing fireworks - ePz teams up with site member Fran Ashton to share a few firework photography tips.

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Image and shooting tips by Fran Ashton.

Photo by Fran Ashton.
  • Standard zoom lens - 24-70mm
  • Telephoto lens - 70-200mm
  • Cable release
  • Tripod
  • Piece of black card – all will become clear!

Arrive Early and get your gear ready

Organised firework displays are popular events so to find the best vantage point you must arrive in plenty of time. Make sure you leave enough space in front for your tripod as without it, you'll end up with a collection of wobbly images.

If you don't want to take your DSLR some cameras, such as Nikon's Coolpix range, feature scene modes which often include firework, among many other modes, which help the camera pick the correct settings to produce the best photo possible. However, as you'll be dealing with low light you should consider taking out a DSLR. A camera such as the Nikon D700, which works well at higher ISOs, is perfect for firework photography where light's usually a limited commodity.

Photo by Fran Ashton.

Fran's tips:

Set your camera to bulb, take a few test shots (see "Anticipation" in my portfolio) to check that your composition is correct and focus – I used auto focus at this point on a fixed item which was the bridge. Once you're happy switch back to manual focus and wait for the display to begin.

You need the piece of black card to cover the lens during an exposure to regulate the length. As I had forgotten mine, I used a black glove!

This is how it works:
You expose for the static objects while the low level stuff, or better still nothing, is being set off and then, still keeping the shutter open, cover the lens with the card/glove (without touching it so a lens hood is a good idea) and wait until the big bursts go off. You can get a good idea of when that is going to happen by watching for the trails climbing into the sky, then remove the card for the split second that the bursts erupt, covering it immediately afterwards.

You can expose for several bursts in one shot this way without: a) getting lots of drift, b) having huge areas of the shot burnt out and c) having the static items too dark to see them.

It's a technique that takes quite a bit of practice to get right – I kept kept covering the lens when I meant to have it uncovered at first! But after a while, you get used to it and you can get some cracking firework shots.

Whether you're a beginner looking for a compact camera or a pro in the market for a high-end DSLR visit Nikon – the company who has photographic gear to suit everyone.

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