Passionate with photography and long exposure photography, I became pro photographer in 2010, and my specialization are Fireworks photography !
I had opportunity to capture amazing fireworks like the Kuwait 50th Constitution Anniversary in 2012, braking Guinness book world record,or even some state of the art fireworks display in château de Vaux le Vicomte in France.
For fireworks applications, I always use ND filters combine with an medium/small aperture. ND filters give me the opportunity to remains in the best lens aperture range performance.
I usually play with ND4 to ND16 filters, depending on various parameters, such as : type of lens, distance between camera & fireworks...
Thanks to ND filters helping me to get a longer exposure, and keep camera/lens on their best capabilities, without lens diffraction drawback. In other words, with ND filters, I can easily extend the exposure time to get more fireworks effects.
Nevertheless, you will find hereafter some basic & advance tips who help you to capture stunning fireworks images !
FIREWORKS PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES
#1 Compose your image:
Anticipate ahead your spot location and get there early in order to get the most wanted spot. Think also about the weather forecast, rains & wind direction. Then like other type of photography, try to compose your image with a appropriate foreground & background.
Composition & anticipating are the keys element helps you to raise up you picture quality from a fireworks picture to an awesome fireworks picture ^^.
Make sure you have enough room in your composition and the possibility to adjust quickly the frame during the show if needed. You might notice that you have to experiment in order to get the look you want.
Use the followed recommendation as a starting point then adapt to your situation, focal length and your camera equipment until you’re satisfying with the results.
#2 Use a tripod:
Use a tripod to hold the camera. You must use a adequate tripod in order to reach the god height, and enough stable to avoid camera shaking and vibration.
You must also use a wired remote (or even wireless remote) in order to trig the camera to avoid camera shaking. More than this, you can also lock the mirror.
#4 Set a low ISO value:
By setting a standard low iso value, you will help to avoid noise on your photos and helps to get a longer exposure time. High ISO value and long exposures tend to increase noise so if you add it all up you get a lot of noise so keep the ISO low to eliminate that variable.
#5 Turn off AF, and set MF focus to infinity (or even):
With AF on, the camera will try to focus every shot (…in the darkness) and you will miss photo due to AF reaching time, or even blurry fireworks images due to an out of focus. By setting the AF off , on the camera menu, or on the lens switch, you will avoi Assuming you’re a fair distance away from the fireworks you shouldn’t have to refocus at all unless you change your angle of view or want to focus somewhere else, like the people in front of you.
#6 Set to Manual mode & Bulb mode:
For fireworks you have to forget automatic or intellingent settings, you need to control by hand what we be the beginning of the exposure, but also what will be the end of the exposure. The only way is to set the camera on manual mode, then set the exposure down to Bulb. With nay camera, you must scroll down the exposure down, or with another camera you have a B function. Please notice, with some camera like Sony will not allow you step down to Bulb until you set to single exposure instead of multiple exposure…
In bulb mode, with your wired remote control you are able to start, maintain, then release the shutter to get the wanted exposure time.
Now you have also to set an aperture value. You might use a setting from f5.6 or f11. The aperture gives you the amount of light incoming to your sensor and helps you to get a longer exposure in order to get more burst. Nevertheless, it is important to stay on the best sharpness aperture range of your lens. If you want a longer exposure time and a top-notch sharpness images, you must use a pro ND filter ans see the advanced techniques herebelow.
ADVANCED FIREWORKS PHOTOGRAPHY TECHNIQUES
#7 Set the Mirror Lock up or use Electronic first curtain shutter:
These features helps you to avoid such a tiny vibration that could blur your images, you can set your DSRL with the mirror lockup function, or even with a mirrorless set the electronic first curtain shutter function. These tow trick would help you to reach the ultimate sharpness.
#8 Set to RAW:
By shooting in RAW format instead of JPG, you will be able to adjust highlight, noise and others value, than JPG format would not let you adjusting
#9 Turn OFF long exposure noise reduction:
Many photographer forgot to deseable this setting ! NR works is that if you take a 15 second exposure, it takes a second one of equal length by applying the noise reduction to your file. During these applying time, your camera will not allow you to start a new photo and increasing the risk to miss the next fireworks burst. Moreover by shooting RAW, NR will not applying on the file, but we still loosing a equal time of your exposure time.
#10 Use a neutral density filter to get a longer exposure:
A slow shutter speed allows you to capture the light trails, for more spectacular pictures, you may require even more light trails, with a longer shutter speed. In order to get a longer exposure time, to satisfying your need, you can even reduce the ISO down, or/and choose the smallest aperture, at around f/32. This setting will force the camera to give you the capability to get a slower shutter speed. The drawback of using a very small aperture are: diffraction.
As the Cambridge is colour says : “The diffraction is an optical effect which limits the total resolution of your photography — no matter how many megapixels your camera may have. It happens because light begins to disperse or "diffract" when passing through a small opening (such as your camera's aperture). This effect is normally negligible, since smaller apertures often improve sharpness by minimizing lens aberrations. However, for sufficiently small apertures, this strategy becomes counterproductive — at which point your camera is said to have become diffraction limited. Knowing this limit can help maximize detail, and avoid an unnecessarily long exposure or high ISO speed. »
Hereafter some side by side exemple, with a goal to get an high level of burst. Each camera have the same setting except aperture value & NDpro filter.
Using the NDpro filter will also allow you to shoot longer exposures and capture more bursts per image. Play with that and try it.
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