View Full Version : photographing fireworks?

06-30-2005, 09:20 PM
Hi, this will be my first time taking photo's of fireworks. I will be useing an Olympus C-5060wz. I have been reading up on how to photograph firworks/tips and tricks. I've seen a lot of people suggesting the landscape or nighttime/fireworks mode. I was just curious if you prefer one mode over the other, or if I should just do it manually. I am fairly new learning Photography, so I would prefer to use one of the preinstalled modes just not sure which way to go. Thanks in advance for any tips/tricks. kaykay

07-03-2005, 12:07 AM
Well, I took photo's of my families fireworks tonite. I switched between the two modes, and I'm still not sure which mode worked better. With the nighttime mode I couln't capture the fireworks fast enough, but the few I got were okay. A lot of the photo's had a colored halo around the fireworks. If some one could please tell me what settings I should use manually, I'd be really thankful. Tomorrow night I'll take photo's at the Big display, so if you can give me a few tips between now and then that would be great. Thanks, have a Happy 4th of July!

07-03-2005, 08:45 PM
There's already a thread in "Tips and Techniques".

My best suggestion is trial and error. Start with an f-stop of around 5.6 and start at ten seconds up to thirty. Then increase your f-stop and do the cycle all over again. Keep on doing it. My experience with fireworks is that if you take enough shots, several will be keepers.

07-04-2005, 08:19 AM
Tomorrow night I'll take photo's at the Big display, so if you can give me a few tips between now and then that would be great. Thanks, have a Happy 4th of July!
Here's an article about fireworks that I found today:
Shooting Fireworks with a Digital Camera
By Jim Barthman

I was recently asked to photograph a local fireworks display. No
problem, I thought, I love fireworks and I've shot enough of them to
feel absolutely confident that I could provide the client with some
great photographs. There was one twist however; because there was a need
for a quick turnaround on a holiday weekend, the client asked that I use
a digital camera.

My enthusiasm was quickly replaced by a mild case of insecurity. I have
been shooting fireworks with film for years with great success. My
confidence is a direct result of that familiar experience. Why mess with
success? The client insisted the deadline was tight and the printer
wanted a digital file, and there was no budget for rush film processing
and scanning. Digital it had to be.

Make no mistake about it - I do love digital photography. I just didn't
think that it was the ideal tool for this job. So as my left brain
processed a profusion of technical questions, my right brain apparently
triumphed. I replied, "No problem, I'd love to shoot the job for you."

Regardless of the camera equipment you use, making good photos of
fireworks can be challenging. Here are some basic things to consider
whenever you are shooting a pyrotechnics display.

Arrive early. Take a little time, before the show, to scout the
location. Chat up the pyrotechnic crew if possible. Try to determine
where the fireworks will be launched and then try to find a clear,
unobstructed view that meets your compositional requirements based on
the terrain, the height at which the fireworks will explode, and your
lens choices.

Position yourself wisely. You don't want to be in the middle of a crowd,
with people wandering in front of the camera or worse kicking your
tripod mid-exposure. Steer clear of artificial light sources such as
streetlights to avoid the possibility of light flare. Watch out for tree
branches that can sneak into your composition too.

Always use a tripod. Capturing the light trails of an aerial display
requires long exposure times. Long exposure times require camera support
to ensure sharp exposures. Whether you're using film or a digital
camera, bring a sturdy tripod.

Don't forget the cable release. Another way to increase camera stability
is to use a cable release. A cable release ensures that you won't have
to physically touch the shutter release thus eliminating the possibility
of camera shake. Many digital cameras won't accept a standard cable
release. Some require a specific electronic remote triggering device.
Check with the camera manufacturer.

Bring a small flashlight. Since you are going to be shooting in the dark
bring a small light so you are not fumbling with your camera's controls
and settings, not to mention changing memory cards etc. I use a small,
Maglight« flashlight. It's lightweight yet sturdy, turns on and off with
a quick twist-of-the-wrist, and goes forever on a couple of AA batteries.

Bring extra batteries. Digital cameras can drain batteries quickly. Have
backup batteries in the event that your primary batteries give out
during the show.

Bring plenty of memory cards. I admit it. I am guilty of running out of
film during a fireworks show. Don't get so excited in the beginning that
you fill your card before the grand finale. That's when the pyrotechnic
pros get to show-off their most impressive aerial displays. A good
finale will produce peak light, color, and excitement. So make sure you
have ample storage space available when the "big guns" go off. Also make
sure that your batteries have enough power to photograph the finale. You
aren't likely to have time to change them when the final bursts are
headed skyward.

Landscape mode. Set your camera to Landscape mode - typically designated
by an icon that looks like a small mountain range. It's the same as
setting the lens on a film camera to Infinity. With the camera in
Landscape mode you won't have to concern yourself with focusing issues.

Use the highest Quality-setting. By choosing a high Quality-setting you
will reduce the amount of compression applied to your images. JPEG
compression degrades image quality and can even introduce artifacts into
your image. This is a particular problem for this subject matter because
compression artifacts are typically found in areas of high tonal and
color contrast, like the bright colored light of fireworks bursting
against an inky black sky. Less compression means fewer image artifacts
and ultimately better image quality.

Exposure. Shooting with a digital camera is somewhat like shooting slide
film. If you're not careful, you can overexpose and lose detail in the
highlights. Since fireworks are, by definition, highlights, using a
digital camera to capture them can be tricky.

You'll need to be able to control how long the shutter is open. For
fireworks, I expose anywhere between 1 and 4 seconds. Shorter exposures
don't always capture the full burst and longer exposures tend to produce
washed-out results. Since the shutter speed must be long enough to
record the explosion of the shell, I control the exposure by choosing
the correct aperture size.

If you have a B (Bulb) shutter speed setting you can use it to control
exactly how long your shutter is open. This is always my choice. The
trick is to open the shutter right at the beginning of the burst and
close it when it reaches its peak. Anticipating the explosion can be
difficult, but not impossible. If you don't have a B setting you can
choose a fixed setting, such as 1 second.

Using one of the suggested apertures listed below, you can use your
preview to test and then compensate the aperture accordingly.

The aperture you use will be based on the ISO setting of your camera or

ISO 50 â/5.6 to 11
ISO 100 â/8 to 16
ISO 200 â/11 to 22

This chart will work with most prosumer digital cameras that allow you
to set shutter speed and aperture. While most film-based point-and-shoot
models won't allow you to do this, most of the sophisticated digital
models permit the photographer to set these controls. If you've never
done this before, you'll have to figure out how to use these controls by
looking at your camera's instruction book.

Most digital cameras have an ISO speed of 100. I don't suggest that you
change it. That suggests that your correct aperture will be somewhere
between â/8 and â/16. As I mentioned earlier, watch the first few
explosions of the fireworks show in the camera's preview. You don't want
the exposure to wash out the colors of the red, blue and green bursts.
They should appear clearly, but they should show their actual color
rather than wash out to a yellow/clear tone.

Weather can affect exposure.
Ever-changing weather conditions can add yet another variable to an
already difficult assignment. Even a light mist or fog can reduce
visibility substantially and, as a result, affect exposure. Compensate

Reduce the noise.
Long exposures, higher ISO settings, and even higher temperatures can
introduce noise into your digital photographs. Noise is typically
visible in very dark or black areas evidenced by colored pixel
artifacts. Although you can't avoid long exposures when shooting
fireworks, you can choose a lower ISO setting. Increasing the ISO on
your digital camera is like turning up the volume on your radio. By
amplifying the signal suddenly every pop and crackle can be heard.
That's why I don't recommend using a faster ISO.

Noise Reduction Techniques Using Adobe Photoshop.
One way to reduce noise in a digital image is to make a black frame
during the shoot and then sandwich it with the noisy shot. To make a
black frame, place the lens cap over the lens and make an exposure using
the same settings that you used during your shoot. I usually try to make
one of these exposures before I start shooting, and then another one at
the end of the shoot. That way I won't forget.

In Photoshop:
1. Open the black frame file alongside an image that has noise.
2. Shift + Drag the black frame Background layer over the noisy image
workspace to create a new layer. (Holding the Shift key ensures that the
new layer maintains perfect registration.)
3. Change the Layer Mode of the black frame layer to Difference.
The noise should be reduced significantly.

Other noise reduction techniques.
Are you sensitive to loud sounds? You might consider purchasing
disposable earplugs designed to protect your delicate eardrums. You can
find them at most good pharmacies. Fireworks shows can be loud! The
noise should be reduced significantly.

It's always more comfortable to travel down paths that are most familiar
to us. But every now and again, it's a good idea to take the unexplored
route. You may not go anywhere. On the other hand, you may discover
something new and unexpected. Occasionally you'll stumble upon something
extraordinary. That's when the fun really starts.

07-04-2005, 02:02 PM
Hey, Thanks that's very helpful information! I have read it on the NYIP site. I have just strated a photography course through them. I now know there is a tip/trick thread but I wasn't sure if I should post my question there because I was hopeing to get the best settings to take firework photo's with my camera, in terms of preinstalled modes and what not. So I hope it's okay to go ahead and ask another question here, if not maybe it can be moved to that thread. About noise reduction, if I use the night scene mode it automatically turns on, but if I go with the landscape mode I don't think it will allow me to turn on the noise reduction. Should I still go with the landscape mode? Also the C-5060 has several diffrent options for sequential shooting, (high speed sequential shooting), (sequential shooting), (af sequential shooting), and (auto bracketing) I was thinking about trying the high speed sequential shooting, it will take 3??? photo's seconds apart. Would you suggest doing this or not. I can use it for the ladnscape mode but not the night scene. Thanks again for all you advice!

07-04-2005, 10:57 PM
Thanks for all the advice. I took photo's of the big display tonight, for the first time, I don't think I did too bad. I got a few good shots, although there's quite a bit of smoke in a few of them. I just kept snapping away, it was a lot of fun! Thanks kaykay