Hubby-to-be and I visited a fireworks display at the weekend, and naturally I took my camera along. After scoffing the obligatory fried foods from the burger van (don’t they always taste sooooo much better when you’re freezing your bits off?) the OH decided he wanted a ‘go’ on my camera. So I gave him a whirlwind lesson in taking pics of fireworks.
He did surprisingly well, although his photography tuition is still ongoing!
Here are some handy hints and tips, in case you’re similarly stuck and/or interested.
There are two key difficulties with taking pictures of Fireworks. Firstly, they won’t stick around and wait for you to be ready, and Secondly, there’s not a whole lotta light to work with.
Let’s deal with the first issue. So Fireworks are one of those blink-and-you-miss-em type occasions, a bit like photographing runners for example. So what you need to do is keep your shutter-speed as fast as possible. Remember that for every time you increase the shutter speed one stop you need to open up the aperture one stop wider to compensate, otherwise your pictures will be underexposed.
Now for the Second issue. And this probably the more tricky of the two. There’s not a lot of light, and this means we have two options. We can keep our ISO low, which will mean we have to use long exposure times (slow shutter speeds) or we can pump up our ISO’s to be super sensitive to the light. For the majority of Low-light photography scenarios I’d go for the low ISO to keep the detail. However, as mentioned earlier we want to keep the shutter speed fast otherwise the Fireworks won’t show up to good and they’ll be super blurry. Therefore, we’re going to go for a high ISO. This will make the images more grainy, which in digital comes out as ‘noise’ but we all just need to embrace that fact and consider shooting on film next year…
But here’s something you might not have thought of. Because of the dark, your autofocus has no idea where to focus, and pointing it up into the sky isn’t giving the poor thing a cat in hell’s chance! And by the time it finds something to focus on (the firework) you’ve missed your shot anyway.
So there are two ways of getting round this. Figure out how far away the fireworks are from you, are they 20 feet in the air or more like 50? (Can you tell I have no idea how high a firework goes?) And set your point of focus based on the distance. This is I guess the technical way to do it. That’s why it’s referred to as the focal distance. However, I find it much easier to set the focus by eye, although this does mean you’ll miss the first couple of explosions as you’re finding the point of focus. But hey, we all know they save the best ones until last, right?
Also: it’s very useful to have someone to hold your burger and spare memory cards for you.
I’m quite pleased with the stuff I shot this year, but I’m bothered by the digital noise and I think next year I’m going to try shooting film. It’ll mean I have to be a lot more selective about when I click the shutter but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think sometimes it’s useful to go back and shoot a few rolls of film, conventional photography still has a lot teach us…But that’s a subject for another day I think. This post is long enough already.