This Fourth of July, fireworks will be poppin' in your yard, the BBQ will be grilling and you will be capturing the best at-home firework photos you've ever taken! Here's some tips and tricks to make those photos POP! P.S These tips apply to you film photographers as well!
General Recommendations: Shoot at a low ISO & at f/5.6-f/16, while using bulb mode.
Enjoy sparklers? See our Fourth of July Sparkler Photography Blog Post (Click Here)
Tip #1 & 2: Use a Tripod AND turn off your Auto-Focus
Tripods are going to be your best friend for longer exposures (1/60th of a second and longer).
Why do you want to use a tripod?
a) A tripod allow you to capture the 'lifetime' of each firework -- you will capture in one exposure, the trails of sparks, creating that 'blooming' flower aesthetic.
b) A tripod will keep you in focus. As it gets darker, it is difficult for cameras to maintain a fast autofocus as they usually rely on contrast-based AF. You will want to manual focus most of your images. If you are hand-holding a camera in the dark, your body is bound to shift, causing you to potentially lose focus and have 'soft' images. Avoid the hassle of refocusing as your body shifts, by utilizing a tripod to maintain your focus.
When shooting subjects that are closer, manually focus to what looks sharpest on your viewfinder or LCD screen. Zoom in on the LCD screen (using the '+' button) to get the sharpest image. We recommend taking a few test shots to ensure your images are as sharp as they can be.
Tip #3: Enhance your scene with a little bit of water
Add a bit of flair to your images before you set off your fireworks by running the hose over a bit of dark pavement (white/tan pavement may not create the same effect).
Sounds crazy, right? The wet pavement in the dark can almost act like a 'mirror' for whatever light sources that go off near it, enhancing the colors and the light of your firework display. If you can create a puddle, even better! See images below (There are no stock images of this effect).
Tip #4 + 5: Utilize Bulb Mode and Take advantage of your Phone-Remote App (or a wired/wireless remote trigger)
Instead of choosing a shutter speed, set the camera to Bulb (B) which allows you to keep the shutter open as long as you want. Expose for the entire fireworks burst. You can even keep the shutter open for multiple bursts.
To 'start' and 'stop' bulb mode, you will want to use a remote trigger, or your phone app to fire. Remote triggers are inexpensive and can run anywhere from $7.99 - 29.99. Wired remotes for film cameras are easy to use and run $9.99 at our stores.
Want more tips? We have another article for Fourth of July Sparklers! Click Here
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The Shutterbug is a Oregon Family Owned & Operated Camera Store, with four locations in Oregon. We have been in the industry of helping photographers like you since 1971.