As it’s the start of November we are only a few days away from this year’s Bonfire Night and we couldn’t really kick this month off without mentioning a few tips that’ll help you capture spectacular firework photos.
As long exposures are a must you will need to take a support with you. A tripod’s great but at busy events you may be better off with a monopod that takes up less room and is easy to move around with.
Stick to low ISOs where possible, however many DSLRs, such as Nikon’s D5200
which won our Pro DSLR Camera Of The Year Award in 2012, do now work extremely well at higher ISOs, making them perfect for firework photography.
If you’re not a DSLR user it can be a little harder to capture frame-filling firework shots but it’s not impossible. Many compacts, such as those available in Nikon’s COOLPIX range
, have a range of scene modes and a firework mode can often be found among them. Plus, the longer zooms that are available on some compacts will now get you closer to the action too.
Wider lenses will capture more of the sky, increasing your chances of capturing a burst. You may want to try shooting a few in a portrait orientation, though, to capture the long trails left by the firework as it climbs to the spot where it explodes.
Finally, pack a torch as it’ll be dark and you may need it when making changes to your settings and for putting your kit away.
Focus And Aperture
Switch to manual focus and turn your focus to infinity (check your manual if you’re unsure how to do this). This is to ensure the firework explosions stay sharp as they can be further than the maximum focus setting on your camera. Setting an aperture of f/8 or f/11 will increase your depth of field, further increasing the chances of capturing a sharp shot of a colourful explosion. Make sure your flash is switched off too.
RAW Or Jpeg?
If you shoot in RAW you’ll be able to tweak colours and brightness levels when you’re back in front of your computer once the display has finished.
For shots filled with bursts of colourful explosions you’ll need to switch to Bulb mode. This mode, available on many DSLRs, allows you to keep the shutter open for longer but as you need to keep the shutter button pressed, it’s a good idea to use a cable release to prevent shake. If your camera allows it, you could fire the shutter wirelessly via a smart device. For some cameras this is done via a wireless adapter such as the Nikon WU-1a Wireless Mobile Adapter ePHOTOzine reviewed
In Bulb mode, you basically need to keep the lens covered (a dark piece of card will work) until a burst erupts. At this point you need to uncover the lens. Replace the card until another burst occurs and continue to do this with however many bursts as you like. It can take a while to get right as timing is key but you can create some great shots when you’ve perfected the technique.
If you don’t have a bulb mode you can capture single explosions with exposure times between 1-4 seconds. This should give you shots that show a light trail as the firework climbs as well as the final burst of colour at the end.
Watch The Display
As displays don’t tend to be short affairs it pays to watch a few bursts so you can see where the fireworks are being launched into the sky and you’ll also be able to see how long it takes them to climb, plus how long the explosions last for. This will make framing easier, although you can’t obviously guarantee every burst will appear where you need it to. It’s worth doing a few test shots to make sure you’re happy with the composition too before the big display begins.
Buildings and other structures can add an extra level of interest to your shots but if they are illuminated it can mean they end up looking ‘blown out’ so adjust your exposure accordingly.
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