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Today's e-tip:

My strategies for shooting

Here are my strategies for shooting fireworks:
  1. Always bring a flashlight – it can be really tough changing your settings in the dark! (those little LED flashlights are great.)
  2. Use a steady tripod – if it’s not "steady", it’s not worth using. If you don’t have a tripod, use a beanbag. Beanbags are one of the best and least expensive accessories you can own and can replace a tripod, as long as you have some place to support it (railing, table, etc.). If using a beanbag, place a piece of black cardboard in front (but not touching) the lens, press the shutter with your finger, wait a second, and then remove the cardboard. This way, pressing the shutter, even if it moves the camera slightly, won't blur the image.
  3. If you shoot JPEG, the camera won't get the colors and exposure right, but you might be able to correct somewhat by underexposing. When shooting JPEG, the camera will be doing the post-processing for you, and will try to lighten the sky, which will wash-out the fireworks color. Shooting RAW will definitely yield much better results, but you will need to post-process your images (see #14 below).
  4. Shoot at LOW ISO – the lower the better. I typically shoot at ISO 50 or 100. Most DSLRs allow you to use a “LOW” ISO – usually one or two stops below the “normal” low of ISO 100 or 200. Low ISO yields very little noise and higher quality images - and will allow you to capture the color in the fireworks and allow you to shoot with a longer exposure, getting more of each burst.
  5. If you have vibration reduction or image stabilization – shut it off - it will cause your images to be less sharp!
  6. Use MANUAL focus – Autofocus is completely useless for fireworks! Just set the focus for infinity.
  7. Use MANUAL exposure – the exposure system in your DSLR will get completely confused by fireworks! Start with an f-stop of f8. If there isn’t enough color, go to F11. If it’s too dark (unlikely), go to f5.6. You will want to shoot with the shutter open for between 2 and 20 seconds - most cameras allow you to set a shutter speed of up to 30 seconds (30"), but if your camera doesn't, you will need to set the shutter speed to B (bulb) and use a locking cable release.
  8. Cable releases can be useful, but I don’t often use one. When your exposure is greater than a second or so, pressing the shutter gently with your finger won't blur your image. I typically use a cable release when my exposures are between 1/15 second and 1 second. If you set your shutter to B (bulb), you will need a locking cable release.
  9. Shoot in Portrait orientation if you’re shooting just the burst. If you want to include the landscape, try some in Landscape orientation, but Portrait orientation usually works best.
  10. Noise reduction. If you enable long-exposure noise reduction, it will help with both RAW and JPEG images, but it doubles the time to save files. That means a 30 second exposure will take an additional 30 seconds to save the image, and you won't be able to shoot during that time. We generally turn off long-exposure noise reduction.
  11. Bring a sheet of black cardboard with you. If you set your shutter to 30 seconds (or use BULB), you can keep the cardboard in front of your lens until a fireworks-burst is fired. They you can remove the cardboard to record the burst. If you want to record multiple bursts, you can re-cover your lens with the cardboard and then remove it for the next burst.
  12. Shoot LOTS of images. You’ll end up deleting most of them, but… you’re much more likely to get more “keepers”.
  13. Shoot with a zoom lens. Experiment by zooming during the exposure on some shots. It creates an amazing effect – sometimes it looks great – sometimes not. So shoot lots of images!
  14. After shooting is almost as important as the shooting itself! Post Process your images in a tool like Elements, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. Without post-processing, your fireworks images won't be all they can be! Check out our Adobe Camera RAW Cheatsheet for post-processing your RAW images.
  15. Check out the following sections of your camera's PhotoBert CheatSheet for camera features you'll want to access:
    • Manual Focus
    • Manual Exposure
    • ISO Sensitivity
    • Long exposure noise reduction
    • Image size (shoot RAW)


fireworks fireworks
Here are examples of zooming during the exposure:
zooming fireworks zooming fireworks
Happy shooting!!

Related products to help you take better pictures:

ProDot Shutter Button Upgrade - Black
The ProDot Shutter Button Upgrade We find the ProDot to be one of the best, and least expensive, accessories we own..

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