An introduction to fireworks photography
In this discussion, we’ll learn about the basics of fireworks photography. In a previous photography discussion, I wrote about long-exposure photography. As fireworks photography is a part of long-exposure photography, I suggest you check out that piece to get started. Anyways coming back to the discussion of fireworks photography. This sub-genre is all about capturing breathtaking photos of a fireworks display and making sure that sharp images are captured using the night sky as the backdrop and the brilliant light trails forming the subject of the photos. In this discussion, we’ll learn about the basics of fireworks photography and how to get started in this genre.
What you need
Apart from the camera and a lens (preferably a wide-angle one), it would help if you had a tripod and a remote trigger/cable release. The job of the tripod is to keep the camera steady while the exposure is being made. Make sure that the tripod is heavy and has feet commensurate with the kind of surface you will be using it on. It would help if you had retractable spiked feet to ensure that the legs can get good traction on the surface.
Additionally, if the conditions are windy, you can do with an option to hang a bag or wights underneath the central tripod column. You will need a hook to be able to do that.
The cable release will ensure that you can trigger the shutter without having to touch your camera. This is one of the prime reasons why you get a camera shake and resulting image blur in your images.
One of the important things that photographers don’t realize is that autofocusing will not work during fireworks photography. When the fireworks go off, it’s only a few seconds before the light trails disappear. It’s not enough time to compose, focus, and shoot an image.
The solution is to use the prefocusing method. Manually focus your lens to infinity and lock it so that the lens does not try to reacquire focus between shots.
Also, choose an aperture that gives you a great depth of field. Start with f/8 and then push your aperture to f/11 and beyond. Always stay mindful of lens diffraction setting in. this is a prime reason for soft results. With kit lenses, lens diffraction tends to set in quicker at smaller apertures like f/11. With better-built premium lenses, the threshold for lens diffraction is at a lower aperture. Say f/16.
Length of exposure
The exposure time frames are difficult to assess unless you’ve taken a few test shots or you’re already a veteran of a few such sessions. Start with a slower shutter speed, like ¼ sec, and then work your way down, depending on your results. If you want to capture multiple fireworks, you can set a shutter speed of 1 second or slower.
The frequency of the fireworks also determines the shutter speed. If the fireworks happen at short intervals, then a one-second exposure will get you multiple light trails followed by blooms in a single exposure.
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