Happy 4th of July!
I’d like to share a (kind of) simple tutorial on how to shoot your own creative fireworks photos! All of these shots are exactly as they came off the camera, 100% (except some cropping). Provided you have an SLR and a lens you can focus manually (wide aperture helps), you can be taking these shots within seconds of the show starting
(If you know all of this technobabble already, just skim through, I’m making sure I explain this well enough for anyone to jump right in.)
- set your camera to Manual (M on the mode dial).
- Turn your shutter speed down, so far that it passes the seconds (marked similar to inches, like 10”) until it turns to “bulb”. I’ll explain why when we shoot.
- make sure your lens’s aperture (f/#) is open either at or around the smallest number. This number varies depending on your lens- I shot these all with a 35mm f/1.8 at f/3.5, which is easily accomplished with the lenses that come with your camera, usually like an 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6.
(Nikon cameras are really backwards compatible, lenses as far back as the 70’s will fit! see if your relatives have an old film camera with some nice lenses hiding in the basement.)
Alright, so now we’re at the event! Line up your shot by setting your camera on a tripod and looking right where the fireworks will be popping. If you don’t have a tripod, try to brace yourself against something so the camera doesn’t move too much.
all you really need to do at this point is focus on focusing.
First, turn off autofocus on your camera. It’s most likely a switch that says “AF/M” on the side of the lens itself, switch to M. this releases the focusing motor and you can quickly rotate the focusing ring back and forth. Figure out (by twisting your focus ring) which direction focuses in the distance, and which one is close.
Twist your focus to the distance and hold it there, waiting with your finger on the trigger for fireworks. Anything that happens when you’re focused properly to the fireworks will be sharp lines and points of light.
As soon as you see the rocket start flying, press and hold your shutter button. Because we’re in bulb mode, it will keep taking in light until you let go, creating a long exposure.
At whatever point you like (probably just after the “boom”), begin to twist your focus towards the ‘near’ end until everything goes blurry. When the firework is done and gone, let go of the shutter. (it might take a few seconds for your camera to process the file and show it on the screen). When you focus away from the fireworks, it changes the size of the points of light and creates those giant glowing orbs, drawing thick curved lines across the sky.
Give it a few tries, and you’ll get timing down to a science, and eventually start experimenting with different methods of focusing back and forth.
Go out and have some fun, do this with a friend twirling sparklers and impress everybody with photos that could make the 60’s jealous