Focus on Travel Photography

Classic Vacation Shots Shooting from the Air Shooting from the Land and Sea Signs Along the Way Photographing Your Cruise Parades and Ceremonies Stage Shows and Events Zoos and Aquariums Fireworks Silly Pictures Around the Campfire
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Photographing a fireworks display is similar to photographing an electrical storm in that you can never predict exactly where or when a specific burst will take place. But as long as you use a wide-angle lens or zoom setting, framing isn't that critical, and even if you catch the displays a bit off center, the results are still pretty.

For handheld shots, the simplest method is to set your ISO to 400 or 800, wait for a burst, aim and fire. There is actually a lot of latitude in exposure for fireworks, too, and the bursts will vary in brightness, but check your LCD to see if you're getting enough exposure. If not, speed up the ISO. Not all of the exposures will be good, but if you shoot a few dozen frames during a half-hour show, you're bound to get several good shots. It takes some practice to get the burst framed nicely, but again, framing isn't critical, and the more you shoot, the more "keepers" you'll get.

If your camera has a bulb setting (and you have a tripod available), you can use a more advanced technique to capture several bursts on a single frame. With the camera on a tripod and the ISO set to its default setting, open the shutter on B, set the aperture to its wide-open setting and then leave the shutter open until you think you've captured several displays on that frame. Between explosions you can use a piece of black cardboard to cover the lens to prevent any stray ambient light sources (street lights, for example) from affecting the image. When the next burst starts, just pull the cardboard away.

You can almost always improve a fireworks shot by including something in the foreground—a partial silhouette, like boats in a harbor, or a city skyline, or even just heads in a crowd. You can also use a lighted monument, like the Statue of Liberty, but keep an eye on the LCD to be sure it's not washing out from too much exposure. If the foreground or sky are overexposing, simply switch to a smaller lens aperture.

Next: "Silly Pictures"