Your best picture takes a little advanced planning. Ideally, you want a good angle to take in the fireworks -- a shot that combines the fireworks with local landmarks or something that matters to you. The big shows attract large crowds, so you may need to arrive a few hours early to reserve the best spot.
Fireworks shows usually last between 10 to 30 minutes. Over the duration of the show, smoke will likely build up in the show area, so the clearest shots will be the first ones. If you are taking wide-angle pictures, you want to be sure you get these shots first. As in the photos shown below, most of your shots will be several seconds long, so you want to try to time your pictures to include both "ground effects" and "sky effects."
As the show progresses, the smoke may make wide-angle pictures less attractive. This would be a good time to switch to a zoom lens and fill each frame with one or two explosions.
Tip: Get artsy. If you're using a zoom lens, try to find abstract or detail shots within the fireworks display. The exposure time is generally much shorter (around 1 second) than a regular wide angle shot. Here's where the advantage of digital photography comes into play -- you can take a lot of different pictures quickly. Many will fail, but the successful shots will be quite beautiful.
Tip: Watch your colors. The different colors of fireworks will produce different levels of brightness. Blue fireworks are generally quite dim. Orange and red are brighter, and greens are generally the brightest. If your shot has mostly blue fireworks, you may want to stop exposing and start a new shot as soon as you see green fireworks, since the green fireworks will wash out the blue.
|Photo: Jimmy Tsang|
If you own a fancy, expensive SLR camera, chances are you know what you're doing already. But if you don't shoot at night that often, or if you've never photographed fireworks, these tips should offer some guidance.
Use the slow shutter speed. This will ensure you see bright "trails" in your fireworks pictures as the flaming particles spread out and begin to fall toward the ground, burning light into the image.
Get a tripod. Leaving the shutter open means that you'll need to stabilize your camera in order to avoid any motion blur. And taking crisp, long-exposure night shots while trying to hold a heavy SLR steady with your hands is next to impossible. Find a tripod, a monopod or, at the very least, a flat, stable surface to hold your camera perfectly still.
Get a shutter release cable. These cables -- flexible and hollow with a spring-loaded plunger inside -- will let you depress the shutter mechanism without having to touch the camera at all, thus reducing any possible blur. (Note that modern DSLRs/SLRs tend to have specialized shutter release cables -- the old screw in type doesn't work.)
Set the ISO to its lowest setting. This will reduce graininess and noise that can be introduced by higher ISO settings. (See tips below.) With film cameras, ISO-100 or slower is best, C-41 print film has much better dynamic range then slide film, so it's more forgiving of over/under exposure.
Dial in a low f/stop. Somewhere between f/8 and f/16 is ideal. (See tips below.)
Set Focus to infinity. Also, be sure to turn off any auto-focus settings if your camera has them. If possible, focus on the 'hyperfocal' distance- this is the point at which infinity is at the edge of your depth of field, so you get as much as possible of the foreground in focus. You may need to use a calculator.
Tip: Try photographing multiple bursts in a single image. Leave the shutter open for 30 to 40 seconds at a time to capture multiple explosions. Just be sure to cover the lens between explosions to minimize the amount of ambient that shows up. Cover the lens with your hand, a black t-shirt or anything dark and non-reflective. Don't touch or bump the camera while you're covering it.
Tip: For a different approach, shoot hand-held without a tripod using a much faster shutter speed and a higher ISO. You'll also want to re-adjust your f/stop, otherwise your images will be too dark. You won't get as many light trails from the fireworks, but you'll pick up a higher level of detail in the actual explosion, so your shots will contain a different type of drama.
Tip: Another approach is using a long exposure time to make some trippy shots of the fireworks, just keep the camera pointed in the right direction while it is taking the photograph.
See more Fireworks photographs taken by film cameras here.
(via Wired How-To)