anyone have tips on taking fireworks photos?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by jeffrey, Jul 4, 2005.

  1. jeffrey

    jeffrey Guest

    im going to take some photos of fireworks Monday. any one have tips to
    take photos of them on a digital camera. I set my camera to iso 80 and
    set it to night mode. I can take a 4 second photo this way. hope it works:)
    jeffrey, Jul 4, 2005
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  2. jeffrey

    Bob Williams Guest

    A friend recently sent me these tips.
    I think they will be very helpful to you.
    Bob Williams

    Shooting Fireworks with a Digital Camera
    By Jim Barthman

    I was recently asked to photograph a local fireworks display. No
    problem, I thought, I love fireworks and I've shot enough of them to
    feel absolutely confident that I could provide the client with some
    great photographs. There was one twist however; because there was a need
    for a quick turnaround on a holiday weekend, the client asked that I use
    a digital camera.

    My enthusiasm was quickly replaced by a mild case of insecurity. I have
    been shooting fireworks with film for years with great success. My
    confidence is a direct result of that familiar experience. Why mess with
    success? The client insisted the deadline was tight and the printer
    wanted a digital file, and there was no budget for rush film processing
    and scanning. Digital it had to be.

    Make no mistake about it - I do love digital photography. I just didn't
    think that it was the ideal tool for this job. So as my left brain
    processed a profusion of technical questions, my right brain apparently
    triumphed. I replied, "No problem, I'd love to shoot the job for you."

    Regardless of the camera equipment you use, making good photos of
    fireworks can be challenging. Here are some basic things to consider
    whenever you are shooting a pyrotechnics display.

    Arrive early. Take a little time, before the show, to scout the
    location. Chat up the pyrotechnic crew if possible. Try to determine
    where the fireworks will be launched and then try to find a clear,
    unobstructed view that meets your compositional requirements based on
    the terrain, the height at which the fireworks will explode, and your
    lens choices.

    Position yourself wisely. You don't want to be in the middle of a crowd,
    with people wandering in front of the camera or worse kicking your
    tripod mid-exposure. Steer clear of artificial light sources such as
    streetlights to avoid the possibility of light flare. Watch out for tree
    branches that can sneak into your composition too.

    Always use a tripod. Capturing the light trails of an aerial display
    requires long exposure times. Long exposure times require camera support
    to ensure sharp exposures. Whether you're using film or a digital
    camera, bring a sturdy tripod.

    Don't forget the cable release. Another way to increase camera stability
    is to use a cable release. A cable release ensures that you won't have
    to physically touch the shutter release thus eliminating the possibility
    of camera shake. Many digital cameras won't accept a standard cable
    release. Some require a specific electronic remote triggering device.
    Check with the camera manufacturer.

    Bring a small flashlight. Since you are going to be shooting in the dark
    bring a small light so you are not fumbling with your camera's controls
    and settings, not to mention changing memory cards etc. I use a small,
    Maglight® flashlight. It's lightweight yet sturdy, turns on and off with
    a quick twist-of-the-wrist, and goes forever on a couple of AA batteries.

    Bring extra batteries. Digital cameras can drain batteries quickly. Have
    backup batteries in the event that your primary batteries give out
    during the show.

    Bring plenty of memory cards. I admit it. I am guilty of running out of
    film during a fireworks show. Don't get so excited in the beginning that
    you fill your card before the grand finale. That's when the pyrotechnic
    pros get to show-off their most impressive aerial displays. A good
    finale will produce peak light, color, and excitement. So make sure you
    have ample storage space available when the "big guns" go off. Also make
    sure that your batteries have enough power to photograph the finale. You
    aren't likely to have time to change them when the final bursts are
    headed skyward.

    Landscape mode. Set your camera to Landscape mode - typically designated
    by an icon that looks like a small mountain range. It's the same as
    setting the lens on a film camera to Infinity. With the camera in
    Landscape mode you won't have to concern yourself with focusing issues.

    Use the highest Quality-setting. By choosing a high Quality-setting you
    will reduce the amount of compression applied to your images. JPEG
    compression degrades image quality and can even introduce artifacts into
    your image. This is a particular problem for this subject matter because
    compression artifacts are typically found in areas of high tonal and
    color contrast, like the bright colored light of fireworks bursting
    against an inky black sky. Less compression means fewer image artifacts
    and ultimately better image quality.

    Exposure. Shooting with a digital camera is somewhat like shooting slide
    film. If you're not careful, you can overexpose and lose detail in the
    highlights. Since fireworks are, by definition, highlights, using a
    digital camera to capture them can be tricky.

    You'll need to be able to control how long the shutter is open. For
    fireworks, I expose anywhere between 1 and 4 seconds. Shorter exposures
    don't always capture the full burst and longer exposures tend to produce
    washed-out results. Since the shutter speed must be long enough to
    record the explosion of the shell, I control the exposure by choosing
    the correct aperture size.

    If you have a B (Bulb) shutter speed setting you can use it to control
    exactly how long your shutter is open. This is always my choice. The
    trick is to open the shutter right at the beginning of the burst and
    close it when it reaches its peak. Anticipating the explosion can be
    difficult, but not impossible. If you don't have a B setting you can
    choose a fixed setting, such as 1 second.

    Using one of the suggested apertures listed below, you can use your
    preview to test and then compensate the aperture accordingly.

    The aperture you use will be based on the ISO setting of your camera or

    ISO 50 ƒ/5.6 to 11
    ISO 100 ƒ/8 to 16
    ISO 200 ƒ/11 to 22

    This chart will work with most prosumer digital cameras that allow you
    to set shutter speed and aperture. While most film-based point-and-shoot
    models won't allow you to do this, most of the sophisticated digital
    models permit the photographer to set these controls. If you've never
    done this before, you'll have to figure out how to use these controls by
    looking at your camera's instruction book.

    Most digital cameras have an ISO speed of 100. I don't suggest that you
    change it. That suggests that your correct aperture will be somewhere
    between ƒ/8 and ƒ/16. As I mentioned earlier, watch the first few
    explosions of the fireworks show in the camera's preview. You don't want
    the exposure to wash out the colors of the red, blue and green bursts.
    They should appear clearly, but they should show their actual color
    rather than wash out to a yellow/clear tone.

    Weather can affect exposure.
    Ever-changing weather conditions can add yet another variable to an
    already difficult assignment. Even a light mist or fog can reduce
    visibility substantially and, as a result, affect exposure. Compensate

    Reduce the noise.
    Long exposures, higher ISO settings, and even higher temperatures can
    introduce noise into your digital photographs. Noise is typically
    visible in very dark or black areas evidenced by colored pixel
    artifacts. Although you can't avoid long exposures when shooting
    fireworks, you can choose a lower ISO setting. Increasing the ISO on
    your digital camera is like turning up the volume on your radio. By
    amplifying the signal suddenly every pop and crackle can be heard.
    That's why I don't recommend using a faster ISO.

    Noise Reduction Techniques Using Adobe Photoshop.
    One way to reduce noise in a digital image is to make a black frame
    during the shoot and then sandwich it with the noisy shot. To make a
    black frame, place the lens cap over the lens and make an exposure using
    the same settings that you used during your shoot. I usually try to make
    one of these exposures before I start shooting, and then another one at
    the end of the shoot. That way I won't forget.

    In Photoshop:
    1. Open the black frame file alongside an image that has noise.
    2. Shift + Drag the black frame Background layer over the noisy image
    workspace to create a new layer. (Holding the Shift key ensures that the
    new layer maintains perfect registration.)
    3. Change the Layer Mode of the black frame layer to Difference.
    The noise should be reduced significantly.

    Other noise reduction techniques.
    Are you sensitive to loud sounds? You might consider purchasing
    disposable earplugs designed to protect your delicate eardrums. You can
    find them at most good pharmacies. Fireworks shows can be loud! The
    noise should be reduced significantly.

    It's always more comfortable to travel down paths that are most familiar
    to us. But every now and again, it's a good idea to take the unexplored
    route. You may not go anywhere. On the other hand, you may discover
    something new and unexpected. Occasionally you'll stumble upon something
    extraordinary. That's when the fun really starts.
    Bob Williams, Jul 4, 2005
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  3. An excellent description. Thankyou.

    By the way, we didn't find out how the shoot turned out.

    Richard Tomkins, Jul 4, 2005
  4. Oh, he's probably still reading the OP's post!
    Dave R knows who, Jul 4, 2005
  5. jeffrey

    Ryan Guest

    im going to take some photos of fireworks Monday. any one have tips to

    Here is how I did it last year:

    I set my camera up on a tripod with a ball head and I left it loose, but
    with resistance. When a mortar would fire, I'd take my best guess where
    it was going to pop.

    I like shots of the burst rather than wide shots of the venue. In
    addition, I didn't have some high vantage point of the city, so it would
    not be interesting. (If you've got the view, then go wide too!)

    Using f/9 or f/11 and the bulb setting on the shutter, I would zoom in,
    probably around 70mm (the limit I had at the time) and either as it
    burst, or just after the burst (because I guessed incorrectly), I would
    open the shutter and wait for the burst to fizzle. (Pay attention to
    your histogram to adjust your aperture) Even if I missed the first
    fraction of the burst, there was no real consequence photographically.

    Keep in mind that these bursts are not an instantaneous thing, they take
    a few seconds to develop. The light emitted is just a dot; the line you
    get is just a graph of the path it took. You can play around with the
    moment you open the shutter for different effects. If you move the
    camera, you get some odd looking stuff, like the burst was drifting.

    If you want to expose the ambient light in the sky and make it somewhat
    blue, then leave the shutter open for another 2 minutes, but you risk
    getting collateral bursts in your frame and you'll get tired of standing
    their with your finger on the button. Otherwise the sky will be black
    and this is probably fine.

    If you zoom wider and wait a while you may get 2-3 bursts that go
    together well. Sometimes it will work, sometimes they will overlap.

    In my city 70% of the bursts go off in just about the same place, so you
    can do quite a lot without moving around much.
    Ryan, Jul 4, 2005
  6. : im going to take some photos of fireworks Monday.

    So how did they come out? What techniques did you try and which ones gave
    you results that pleased you?


    Randy Berbaum
    Champaign, IL
    Randy Berbaum, Jul 7, 2005
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