Fireworks only come once a year for many of us. It takes specialist settings to make the most of our 30-40 minute a year opportunity. I know I always have to go back and review the previous year’s camera settings to improve my crop of good settings each time I shoot.
An absolute must is one tripod (or at least a bean or rice bag to rest your camera on). Stability is important.
Most any camera will work, preferably one with manual settings. You want to be in control of almost everything, as the camera sees all of the dark sky and tries to overexpose your scene. The camera must have a remote shutter release, or like many of the newer cameras have, a Wi-Fi connection to a phone app like the lumix And Olympus cameras. This ensures that the camera is not jostled when starting the exposures.
Wild and crazy
I push my fireworks shooting to the limit. Since there are only one or two opportunities a year, I try to make the most of it. Here’s a setup I use for multiple cameras. A Tripad supports multiple iOS devices. I use an iPhone and two iPads. Each device is linked to a camera. Thanks to the Lumix Image app, I can see what each camera is viewing on any device and shoot frames at will. Each camera has a different lens and a number of slightly different shutter speed and/or aperture settings.
Note: For those who haven’t seen Tripad, it makes a table using your tripod as legs. Unfortunately they are no longer made. You can try Tether Tools for professional accessories or some sort of stand for support. If you use a single camera, a table is not necessary.
Number one shows the Peak Design camera strap buckles that allow a camera strap to be added or removed very quickly. All my cameras are equipped like this. That way I can also mix and match the size and type of straps depending on the shooting day.
Here are some settings that worked for me. Depending on your type of camera, you may need to make some adjustments. For example, since I shoot with micro four thirds cameras, my preferred ISO is 200. I recommend shooting with the native ISO for your camera. For most full-frame cameras, the native ISO is 100. Check with the camera manufacturer to confirm.
I’ve had photographers in the past ask me to rate why they had less than great results and part of that is an ISO that was set too high because it was dark. Remember we are shooting the burst and not the scene in front of us.
One thing for those with Lumix or other advanced amateur cameras like the Lumix FZ2500, Lumix G7, etc., be sure to check the Scene Menu for Artistic Nightscape (as I’m a former Lumix Ambassador, Lumix cameras are the ones I’m familiar with). This setting allows you to have a longer exposure with a smaller aperture. Test this before you go out because you’ll need to tweak the settings a bit and you don’t want to be ready for the big show. Go out at night and choose the setting and change the dial on the front until you get a shutter speed of two to five seconds. The aperture should be f/8 or higher.
If you’re in a dark area, you can practice a bit with autopath lighting to get a feel for how it works. You can then monitor the live view and adjust exposure compensation to tailor your shots to your taste.
There are a number of ways to get the most out of your firework files and different ways to use them. In a future post, I’ll share some post-production tips and tricks.
Have fun getting your images!
Yours in creative photography, Bob