July 1, 2011

Bonus – How to shoot fireworks.

Happy Canada Day/4th of July/almost Bastille Day.

In amongst the hot dogs, ice cold beer and kids passed out in the back seat on the way home, there will be fireworks. And in between the “oohing” and “ahhing,” you might be thinking to yourself “I’d sure like a picture of those things.

But every time you press the shutter you get this dull, weird looking single streak of light that doesn’t really look like the lightshow you see.

There’s a good reason for this of course. If you’ve got your camera on Auto or P, it’s trying to make decisions for you. And because it doesn't know you’re trying to take a picture of exploding light in the sky, it’s not going to do what you want.

All you need to do is tell your camera that you want to take a picture of fireworks by setting a nice long shutter speed. It’s easy and fast, and here’s how you do it…

1.           Turn your camera to Tv/S (or M if you’re comfortable) – the key to shooting fireworks is a long shutter speed.
2.         Dial in your shutter speed to somewhere around 4 seconds. You can play with the length of time as you shoot, but I get good results with four seconds.
3.          Put your camera on a tripod or a table that can see the fireworks. If you move the camera as you shoot, the camera will know and pick up the motion. You can shoot fireworks handheld, but the shots won’t be crisp.
4.         Anticipate the shot. This one’s important. If you try and take a photo of a firework as it’s exploding in the sky, you’ve already missed the shot. But you have to focus, so press the shutter halfway down when a firework is in mid explosion and wait with your finger still pressing halfway down. This sets the autofocus. As soon as you see the next firework head into the sky, press the shutter all the way down. (If you want to avoid doing this with every shot, you can set your focus and turn off autofocus altogether.)

There are other cool tricks you can do – like shaking the camera all around as the fireworks explode overhead for nifty light trails (that's what I did with the photo up top). The big thing with fireworks is to try stuff out. Play with the shutter speed. Change the white balance. Play!

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