There is something truly magical about well-done fireworks photos. Capturing a fleeting moment, freezing it in time for all eternity, is the goal of any good photographer, and fireworks are a tremendous example of those gone-in-a-flash moments. Yet because they are so bright and dazzling, and gone so quickly, fireworks are extremely difficult to capture on film. Here are 7 tips to improve your fireworks photography.
1. Kill the Flash
If you leave your camera flash set to Auto, it will come on during your fireworks photos. The camera recognizes the low-light conditions that surround you, and attempts to illuminate the shot. Yet camera flashes only work at distances of around 10 feet or less, far smaller than the distance between you and the fireworks.
What happens instead is that the flash illuminates the people and objects immediately surrounding you. Your photo winds up with a brightly lit crowd at the bottom and a dull, dark, underexposed firework overhead.
To end this problem, manually set your camera flash to Off. If you want people illuminated in the shot, capture them in light that comes from behind the camera. Focus on the firework, and let its own light shine through in your photograph.
2. Dump the HDR
HDR, or high dynamic range, is an excellent way to capture rich colors in non-moving objects. It takes numerous shots at high speed, and then stitches them together to create a single, more perfect image. However, fireworks are constantly moving and changing shape. Therefore, even the high speed burst of shots will never match up precisely. This leaves you with a muddy image that is the opposite of the crisp, clean shot you are going for. Turn off the HDR setting for much better results.
3. Take Lots of Photos
Although the high speed burst of HDR does not work for fireworks, taking quite a few photos is the key to success. All experienced photographers know that it can take up to 10 photographs to hit on the one that really works. Rather than snapping a quick pic or two and hoping for the best, keep photographing throughout the show.
4. Use a Long Exposure…and a Tripod
The longer the shutter is open, the more light is exposed, creating a richer fireworks photo. In fact, it is best to keep the shutter open for several seconds per firework, starting right before it explodes. The flip side is that the longer the shutter is open, the more you will see the effects of even slight camera movements. To balance this out and prevent blurry photographs, use a tripod or at least a monopod to stabilize your camera.
5. Find the Story
While fireworks can be fascinating on their own, telling the story of a particular show can be even more exciting, especially if you are trying to document the event. Take crowd shots as people begin gathering. Catch interesting setup shots. Snap a few candid photos of your friends and family standing beside you. Also, consider capturing some unusual shots during the show, such as your child’s face with a firework exploding overhead.
6. Do Some Editing
No matter how good your photography is, fireworks photos almost always benefit from some editing. For example, you might try cropping the photo, decreasing the contrast, and enhancing the saturation. It will take some fine-tuning, but once you are used to your editing software, a few simple edits can take your fireworks photos from good to spectacular.
7. Consider Video Instead
Shooting video can be a bit more forgiving than trying to capture that one perfect shot. If you keep the camera running, you will not have to worry about timing each exposure, and you can fine-tune your settings as the show moves along. It is easy to pull stills out of the video for single photographs, while the completed video provides an excellent record of the display as it happened.
At Dynamite Fireworks, we don’t only sell top-quality, name-brand fireworks. We also provide the information you need to know to use them responsibly, legally, and safely. If you have any questions or concerns, give us a call at (219) 937-4090. We look forward to becoming your one-stop shop for all your fireworks needs!