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Fireworks Photography

Fireworks are a truly exciting and exhilarating spectacle, and catching fireworks on camera can produce some of the most stunning and spectacular pictures you will ever photograph. Unfortunately unless you can afford to travel around the world at regular intervals the chance to actually photograph fireworks only comes around a few times a year so it is vitally important to get the right shots at the right time and make your time spent photographing count for as much as possible. With the right camera (you don't need a top of the range digital to produce high quality fireworks photographs, any DSLR will work perfectly well) and more importantly mastery of a few crucial techniques you'll be producing images of fireworks that you will be able to look back on for years to come.

Firstly let us consider equipment. A tripod is vital for fireworks photography. Even a monopod falls short as you still have to steady the camera with your hands, in fireworks photography you will use very long shutter speeds to allow maximum light into the camera so it is imperative that you possess a high quality sturdy tripod and are familiar with its use. A remote shutter release goes hand in hand with the tripod and is important for fireworks photography, without one you will produce images that are blurry and will not be worth keeping. Your choice of lens is not specifically important for photographing fireworks, choose one based on your position from the show as though you are photographing things during the light of day. Finally your camera must be capable of very long, slow shutter speeds as you want to keep the shutter open for over 10 seconds in most cases. If your camera has a bulb setting (which allows the shutter to be kept permanently open) then this will function even better.

You must ensure that you are in a good location for the fireworks display and your camera is not likely to get jostled by people passing by or you are not on a stage or platform of any kind that will wobble; even the smallest movements will be magnified due to the long shutter speeds you are using. Now when taking photographs of the fireworks you must remember that you are not capturing a single “still” or “moment” but rather you are looking to photograph the firework in it's entirety from the first explosion to the trails left behind by the falling sparks. To this end you should try to time the shutter so it opens just before the firework explodes and closes just as the last sparks fade away. If you are shooting in bulb mode and your shutter is fixed open then you can simply replace the lens cap (being careful not to move the camera ) rather than close the shutter if it proves to be easier (or even simply cover the lens with your hand) and simply remove your lens or hand when the next burst of fireworks occur. One drawback of shooting in bulb mode is that it will only work against a black night sky, if you are photographing fireworks from a distance then any buildings, trees, bonfires or other features will obviously overexpose so you will have to consider a shutter speed that accommodates both the landscape and the fireworks. You can also vary the aperture which will allow you to make the trails of the fireworks sparks thicker or thinner, a small aperture will make the trails far thinner whilst a large aperture will make them appear much thicker and brighter on the final picture.

If you have managed to keep your camera in the same place for the entire fireworks display then you can often use digital manipulation and 3rd party software to “overlay” various explosions and fireworks bursts to produce dramatic and exciting shots. This can be useful if you are unhappy with your original composition or are unable to capture the more dramatic fireworks scenes with multiple explosions in the sky at once. Since you will be photographing fireworks against a relatively non-moving background (again ideally against a pitch blank night sky) it becomes easy to stitch attributes from certain scenes together to create a composite image of your photographs from the evening. You are limited only by your imagination when editing your fireworks shots as long as your raw source material is good.