Mark Elliott from Better Photos. Better Photos runs group courses and provides personal tuition in digital photography in the Lake District.
With Bonfire Night on its way, here are some tips for taking spectacular firework photos with your DSLR camera. This method is not the only way to photograph fireworks but it is very effective and easy. So, get someone to light the blue touch-paper, stand well back and follow these steps.
The set up
- Use a tripod and a cable release to prevent camera shake.
- Set your ISO to the lowest setting to reduce digital noise.
- Set your focus to manual and then turn focus to infinity (look for the figure of eight symbol lying on its side).
- Set your aperture to f/11.
- Turn off your flash.
- Set your camera to the 'Bulb' setting. (This varies between cameras - so please refer to your manual. When 'Bulb' is set, the shutter stays open whilst you hold down the shutter completely, and closes when you let go of the shutter button).
- Consider including buildings or other structures for a stronger composition.
Where to get the best photos
It's easier to obtain impressive firework photos at large events. Check the internet and local press to find large, organised firework displays.
Get there early to scout the location and find the best viewpoints.
Photographing the action
Using the above guidelines and the 'Bulb' setting, press your shutter at the start of the firework explosions and let go of the shutter when they subside. Try 5 and 10 second exposures as a start point. You can capture multiple explosions by keeping your shutter open and holding a piece of black card in front of your lens when the action subsides (blocking out the light), and then removing it from the lens to capture the next explosions.
Things to bear in mind
Words and images by Mark Elliott from Better Photos
- Leaving the shutter open for long periods of time can result in parts of your photograph becoming overexposed. This is not likely to be a problem if you are pointing your camera at the night sky. However, if street lights, illuminated buildings or other structures are featured in the frame, then leaving open the shutter for long periods may result in these parts of your image becoming 'blown out' (losing all detail). If this happens, reduce the amount of time that you hold open the shutter.
- Images taken with long exposure times (very slow shutter speeds) often contain digital noise. If switched on, your camera's noise reduction processor might activate after you take each shot, causing a slight delay before you are able to press the shutter again. You might also need to use noise reduction software to further clean up your images when you edit them on your computer.
- At such slow shutter speeds anyone positioned within the frame will show motion blur if they move whilst the shutter is open.
- It's going to be dark, so take a small torch to help set your camera and pack away your gear.
- Have a great Bonfire Night.