Photographing Fireworks

Frivolous Engineering is the end result of a hobby that got out of hand.

Intro: Photographing Fireworks

Getting good photos of fireworks is easy.
Just follow this instructable...

Step 1: Equipment

Camera that has manual settings
Tripod

Step 2: Camera Setup

Using a tripod is key, because you're going to be taking exposures that are 2 - 4 seconds long and the camera must remain completely still while the shot is taken.

You'll need to be able to manually set the exposure (shutter speed), Aperture (the f-stop), and ISO.

Depending on your camera and how close you are to the fireworks, you will need to adjust the f-stop to fine tune the pictures.

Longer exposures will capture multiple fireworks bursts. 2 to 4 second exposures work great.

Step 3: ISO

ISO is the 'film' speed that the camera is using. In digital cameras the electronic pickup can capture images at various speeds.

You'll want to use a low ISO value, around 80 - 200. Although most cameras can shoot at higher ISO's such as 1000, the images will have more 'noise' and look 'grainy'.

I used an ISO of 125 for the photos in this instructable.

Pick a low ISO and stick with that. If you find that the photo is underexposed, adjust the aperture.

Step 4: Aperture

This is the iris of the camera and the f-stop settings control the aperture.

The larger the f-stop number, the smaller the iris is open.

What aperture to use depends on your camera, and how close you are to the fireworks.

You will most likely need to adjust this setting. Take some shots at around f-8 and if they look to be underexposed use a lower value. Overexposed then use a higher value.

The photo below was at f-11 and is under-exposed.

I found that f-5 worked for me.



Step 5: Exposure

A 2 - 4 second exposure will get good shot.

I used an exposure of 4 seconds for the pictures in this instructable.

The main thing to keep in mind is when you press the shutter release, the camera has to stay completely still. If you bump it during the exposure, it will blur things.

If you are using a film camera, a cable release or bulb that attaches to the shutter release can be used. It will allow you to press the button without shaking the camera, and you can hold it for any desired length of time.


Lithops suggested these great tips:

"if you want multiple fireworks in one shot, usually the other lit parts of the frame are badly overexposed, especially if you use longer exposures than just a couple of seconds... Just cover the lens with something like black foam rubber but just make sure that it covers enough beyond the lens. And be careful not to touch and shake the camera while doing that. Then simply take it away snappy when you see more fireworks shooting up."

"And you can use the cameras self timer... " (to prevent bumping the camera when pushing the shutter release)


Jeff-0 gave this great tip:

"When I hear the "thump" of the firework being launched I hit the trigger, and release when the firework has burned out."

Step 6: Conclusion

Use a low ISO and adjust the f-stop to get the shots you like. Play around with the manual settings to see what effect they have on the resulting image.

These same settings can be used to photograph lightning, too!

Have fun, and enjoy the summer.

- Brett @ SaskView

PS: thanks Instructable staff for featuring this!

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    62 Discussions

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    vincent7520ERCCRE123

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    congratulations ! … I think this is the best shot of all shown : composition, like any other graphic art, that's what photography is all about

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    Xthinker

    7 years ago on Introduction

    My camera has light exposure and iso, but not f-stop. the light exposure is
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    so wich one?

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    I took this one last week at the Magic Kingdom. I just had the little tabletop tripod though and had to put it on someone's shoulder.

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    gnach

    8 years ago on Step 5

    A remote shutter release for digital is like the cable release. Any inexpensive "off brand" is usually fine. Practice using it first before going out on the 4th.

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    Lithops

    9 years ago on Step 6

    Nice 101 on fireworks photography :) It's not as hard as it might seem nor do you need expensive SLRs... One thing came to mind that i use and is not in this tutorial: if you want multiple fireworks in one shot, usually the other lit parts of the frame are badly overexposed, especially if you use longer exposures than just a couple of seconds... Just cover the lens with something like black foam rubber but just make sure that it covers enough beyond the lens. And be careful not to touch and shake the camera while doing that. Then simply take it away snappy when you see more fireworks shooting up.

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    SilenceLithops

    Reply 8 years ago on Step 6

    Making sure your cameras exposure is calibrated is probably a good thing as well to get true colours etc. I tried fireworks about a year ago with my first DSLR, an Olympus E-410, using I think 10 sec exposure and the self timer at 2 sec or something like that. I was on ISO 800 and cant remember the rest, most were over exposed, but some turned out pretty good, it depended on how big and bright the firework was. Took over 300 shots and picked the best ones out. A cable release is really the best way to go.

    firework.jpg
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    Avatar_I_AmLithops

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    That is basically what we have been doing for the last 30 years or so, but you can use a can [coffee, oatmeal, etc.] painted black on the inside, or a black baseball cap, to cover the lens for multiple shots on one frame. Just make sure to use a cable release to keep teh shutter locked open. That is one problem with many- if not all- of the entry level cameras: No cable release feature... Most of all, have fun and don't forget to enjoy the fireworks! Same way works for Lightning, too!

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    When I shot fireworks last summer I used a high ISO (1600) and low aperture (f/5 or less) and got nice shots. They were different, instantaneous of course, but that allowed me to shoot by hand. Maybe this year I can try a tripod and see how I like the motion effect of a longer exposure.

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    flamekiller

    8 years ago on Step 4

    Another tip, if I may suggest it: Take your surroundings into consideration. Whether it's the spectators, structures (such as bridges, buildings, etc), or natural features (hills, trees, water), including them in the shot provides a sense of scale and place. Keeping these kinds of things in mind can turn an otherwise colorful but boring burst into a dramatic scene. In doing this, you may be walking a fine line on exposure of the shot. Experiment around with your exposure. If possible, visit the location of the show the evening before and look for opportunities. Try different shutter speeds and aperture settings, and different focal lengths (if you have the lenses to do it) and shooting angles. Try and imagine where in the sky the shells are going to burst. If you're familiar with a show, you probably have a good idea of what you're going to have to look for. Take lots of pictures that would include fireworks if they were there. Look at the pictures you took at home, on your computer at full resolution (NOT on that tiny LCD screen). Look at how the scene is exposed at a particular setting, and take this into consideration with what you'd like to get out of your shots. Don't be afraid to experiment while you're shooting the show, of course. Keep in mind that you aren't going to get a superb photo every time. Find what works for you - for your equipment and your style. If you don't find exactly what you like this time, well, there's always New Year's!

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    kcls

    8 years ago on Introduction

    With the fourth of July coming up in a few days, I'll have to try this!