Wednesday, July 1, 2009

:ARTICLE: How to Take Great Fireworks Photos with a Point & Shoot

This article was originally published on this blog on July 1, 2008, so if it seems familiar, that would be why. :-) However, there are many new readers here since last summer and since the information is still quite useful and certainly timely, I decided it was worth a repost.

You can see many additional fireworks photos that I have captured using these very tips here and here.


Getting great fireworks photos has to be hard, right?

Not necessarily. The pros want us to believe this, I think, but scrapbookers and photography hobbyists can still get great results without loads of equipment and studying aspects of aperture, shutter speed, focal length and such for hours before the event or spending the entire show trying to get your settings just right.

All of the photos in this post were taken by me last year with my Canon S3 IS and I'll give you my 5 basic steps to how I got my results.

1) Scope out your location.
Try to arrive on site while it's still light out so that you can make sure that you get a good position for shooting. Try to avoid areas where trees or other obstructions may hinder your shooting. You want to have a clear view of the area of sky where the bursts will appear.

2) Use a tripod.
Okay, so you will need this one other piece of equipment to get good shots. With fireworks, it is an absolute must considering the length of time that your camera's shutter must be open to capture the brilliance of fireworks. The camera must be PERFECTLY still during that entire length of time in order to get a good shot. But it doesn't have to be anything too fancy. The one I use is actually one my husband picked up at an auction for around $5.

3) Use your self-timer.
Articles of this type will generally suggest that you use your remote release to trigger the camera to avoid camera shake when pushing the shutter release. Although some P&S cameras have a remote release option, most do not. The easy way around this is to use the self-timer. My camera has a 2 or 10 second option, so I set mine on 2 seconds and will generally hit the shutter release when I hear or see the firework trajectory leave the ground. It's not full proof. Some fireworks take longer than others to burst, but it works enough of the time to get some great shots.

4) Frame your shot.
Take a variety of shots. Use your zoom to get some shots that will zero in on the burst itself and zoom out to get some that take in some of the scenery as well, such as the shot below where you can see a bit of reflection of the firework on the water. If you're attending a show within a city, you may actually want to include part of the cityscape in your photos to give them a greater sense of place. Also, don't assume that if you don't get the entire burst within your frame that it's one for the recycle bin. Some of my favorite shots are those that only show part of the burst against black sky which actually makes for a very interesting photo in terms of composition.

5) Use the fireworks setting.
Yup. It's allowed. That's why it's there. Camera manufacturers didn't create all those settings so that you could feel guilty about using them. They created them so that more people could enjoy the art of photography! I used the fireworks setting for every picture in this post, so no time was wasted trying to figure out the perfect settings.

PLUS 3 more little tips:

1) Take a flashlight. Always good to have when trying to take photos in the dark.

2) Charge your batteries. You'll be taking lots of shots to get your keepers in this type of shoot. Make sure your camera doesn't die on you half way through the show.

3) Empty your memory card. Again, lots of photos, so you'll want to have as much room available on your memory card as possible.

I hope that these hints and tips are helpful to you as your venture out for fireworks later this week! I would love to hear from you if you have any other fireworks photography hints and tips to share.

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