BONFIRE NIGHT: HOW TO TAKE THE PERFECT FIREWORKS SHOT
Bonfire night is just around the corner, and on 5 November – and probably a few days before and after – the skies across Britain will be lit up with multicoloured lights from fireworks. This is a very exciting subject to photograph, but shots of fireworks can be quite difficult to get right. Also, if you’re at a fireworks display, you will have only a limited amount of time to get that perfect image. In this blog we’ll get you up to speed and teach you everything you need to know on how to nail the perfect fireworks shot!
Taken by Flickr user Zhiyuan Ma, shot with an Olympus PEN E-PL5
What you’ll need:
Camera: The beauty of fireworks is that you can photograph them with any camera, provided it has manual controls. It doesn’t matter if it’s a compact camera, bridge, mirrorless or a DSLR – any of these will be able to capture great pictures. If you do have a camera with interchangeable lenses, be sure to pack a lens that can capture the scene and isn’t too zoomed in.
Tripod: It’s going to be dark and you are going to want to shoot with long exposures, so making sure the camera remains stable and steady is very important. If you have a tripod that’s brilliant, but if you don’t, try to find something that will hold the camera firmly in position without it wobbling.
Cable release/OI Share application/time setting: As we stated above, it’s important that the camera remains stable. It’s possible, when pressing the shutter button, that you may cause the camera to move. To prevent this, try triggering the shutter without touching it. You can do this with either a cable release, using the 2-second timer on certain cameras, or if you have a Wi-Fi-enabled Olympus camera you can use the OLYMPUS OI SHARE application to wirelessly trigger the shutter.
Taken by Flickr user Chris Kelley
Settings – The Basics
Focusing: When shooting your first picture, start by using autofocus and ensure the firework area is in focus. Then, switch to manual focus. So long as your camera is in the same position and the fireworks are in the same place, there’s no need to focus again. This will save you time, as you won’t have to wait for the camera to automatically focus.
Shutter speed: A good rule of thumb is to have a shutter speed of between 2 seconds and 10 seconds. With a shorter shutter speed it takes good timing to press a fraction of a second before the firework explodes, but it’s great for capturing big fireworks displays. When using longer shutter speeds, such as 10 seconds or more, it’s possible to capture the fireworks as they stream down or explode outwards. The longer the shutter speed, the more of the fireworks movements you will capture.
ISO: As you have everything stable on a tripod, there’s no need to push the ISO too high – ISO 100-400 should be fine. If you want to try to capture some more ambient light within the scene, it can be worth experimenting with higher ISO settings.
Aperture: Using an aperture between f//8 and f/16 will allow you to have a very good depth of field, keeping more or less everything sharp from front to back. It will also allow you to use a long enough shutter speed to capture the fireworks the way you want them too.
Things to think about;
Get a good spot: If you’ve got a tripod and you want to take pictures, you will want to scout out a good spot. You don’t want people in your way and, likewise, you don’t want to be in other people’s way. Do a bit of reconnaissance and you will likely find somewhere that’s just right.
Giving the fireworks context: Fireworks on their own can look a bit dull. Aiming to give fireworks a sense of scale and some context is a great way to elevate a shot. By timing a shot to illuminate a crowd or including something in the foreground, you can achieve a much better picture.
Watch out for smoke: Chances are you will capture your best shots early on. After a while, there will be a lot of smoke, which will decrease the clarity of your images. It’s also worth noting which way the wind is blowing so you can avoid positioning yourself downwind.