Photo taken by contributor Alexandre Goulet, a Software Engineer from Ontario, Canada. He has found that photography is a great media through which he can escape the day to day trials of life. Photography was especially helpful after the loss of his mother. Photography, in addition to therapy, was a great deal of help to him through that challenging time.
About this photo: “My fireworks pictures used to turn out horribly blurry. The few times I got lucky with a shot, the picture had no life to it. Follow these three tips to get better fireworks pictures.
Tip number 1: Use a Tripod
You would not believe the benefits of using a tripod for firework pictures. However it is pretty much a must! Fireworks are already very difficult to shoot on their own: you have to get the timing just right, the scene in front of you is metered as dark by your cameras internal metering sensors, and forget trying to auto-focus on fireworks as they are exploding. But the biggest problem of all is your hands aren’t steady, and if your camera isn’t on a stable surface, your fireworks will lack the definition and clarity that made them such a joy to watch in the first place.
Tip number 2: Pull back, compose, and throw in something else into the picture
This one is the biggest rookie mistake. We’re brainwashed to believe closer is always better. Like being at a concert, being in the front row means you have the best seats in the house. And for some reason we act the same with fireworks. The closer we are, the more we feel like we’re a part of something, involved, and that the experience will be better. But we don’t realize that we have the luxury of seeing fireworks just as beautifully from further back. And it works better for pictures. It allows you to compose, to add context to your picture, and in turn, life. Try adding a view of the water if the fireworks are near a beach, or get an angle that lights up the crowd with each explosion to show scale and perspective. Or frame in a monument using the rule of thirds to add an extra element of context.
Tip number 3: Use Bulb mode
Another rookie mistake is to believe you have to snap the picture with a fast shutter speed, to take the shot quickly so that it remains sharp. While this does in fact create sharp pictures, you will often end up with just dots in the sky and no idea where it came from and no trails to see it rise and explode. This mistake is sometimes self-taught, as a result of using a camera in hand, and maybe even on Automatic mode. The camera will try to prolong the exposure (which is the correct thing to do in this case), but holding a camera in hand with a long exposure just results in blurry pictures. So you are encouraged to believe you need to take the picture quicker.
However, we covered in tip 1 that a tripod is a must, and that will pretty much get rid of all your camera shaking issues. So it’s time to welcome that long exposure again. In Bulb mode, you control just how long the shutter stays open. (Isn’t it great!) So you can leave it open for 3 seconds for one picture and 8 seconds for the next without having to change any settings! So here is my own personal way of using bulb mode for fireworks
- Press down on the shutter release to start the exposure when you hear the firework getting launched in the air but haven’t seen a trail yet.
- Keep it pressed down while you see the trail in the air, and continue to keep it pressed down as the firework explodes and grows
- When it is finished exploding and you believe you caught the full life-cycle of the firework, then let go.
Using this simple strategy you add history and life to your firework. You can even keep the shutter open for multiple fireworks at a time, although, my own personal belief is that sometimes too much, is well, too much.
*As an added tip, using a remote shutter will further guarantee that the camera isn’t shaking during the exposure. However, if you have steady hands and are using a tripod, you can get away with it just fine. The picture above was taken in bulb mode using my finger and a tripod and no remote shutter and I think it turned out ok 🙂
Experiment, try it out for yourself, take tons of pictures and look at them at home on the computer screen, and using these simple tips, I’m sure you’ll be happy with your shots.”
More from Alexandre at his blog.