Vaishakhi Lahoti


June 25, 2012

In my last post I mentioned Fireworks and it seemed like a good segway into this post. Fireworks are a budding photographer’s real test. Its technically challenging and needs patience. With July 4th just around the corner it doesn’t hurt to brush over the basics of this type of photography.

Before you begin

Set your ISO to 100 or 200. You want to capture the bright colours and a dark background. Left to its own means the camera may choose the highest ISO possible leaving you with washed colors and grainy background.
Find yourself a good spot to view the fireworks. Hopefully without bobbling heads and wires and trees.. you get the picture!

Get the Focus right

Fireworks are hard to photograph right because if you think about it, the camera needs to be focused to an object that doesn’t exist yet. It does not help either that everything is dark. Here is where having an SLR which can switch into manual focus mode helps. Traditional point and shoots may go ‘hunting’ for the right focus all the time and the end result is generally blurry. Some lenses do not come with a manual focus switch and in that case you might just have to hope that while the fireworks are on you will be able to get a good focus. Once switched to Manual, you need to set the focus to infinity. This should be good for most instances unless for some reason you are very close to the fireworks and may want to check with a few shots to get the focus right.

Blurred and Shaky!


Tripod or not?

Having a tripod is generally a good thing. It allows you set long exposures and reduce shake. But, in this case the length of the exposure is tricky. Too long and it will be a mess of too may fireworks on the same location. Too less and you will not see the full bloom of the show. See the examples below that show the two problems.

Too many fireworks in the same shot?

Too less of an shutter speed? This was taken without a tripod

That being said a tripod is not a necessity. You may only want a firm base to hold your hand while you take the shots or reduce your shutter speed to just the right amounts. The above photos are hand held and although they dont show a full bloom they are still sharp.

Be an early bird

Among other things what can destroy an otherwise decent fireworks photo is the smoke associated with the show. Its amazing how much can gather and how soon. Get in early in the fireworks show while there is still less smoke. It also helps to make sure that the frame captures one or two of the fireworks. As the end draws closer more of the fireworks go together creating a mish mash. See photo below for an example

Smoke and wires.. too many fireworks going simultaneously


In the end

Remember to peek outside the camera once in a while, enjoy the fireworks for what they are  – spectacularly pretty. And if you are into Katy Perry, go humming – Baby you’re a firework!

Below are a few of my prized Fireworks shots. Hopefully they illustrate how to do it the right way. But as usual beauty is solely in the eyes of the beholder. So you let me know if you like them or not