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Photo Tips > Fireworks >

Point-and-shoot Cameras

This section is about photographing fireworks with point-and-shoot cameras.

If you have a digital SLR, go to Digital SLR (DSLR) Cameras.

1 - Bring

Bring a tripod, a small flashlight so you can see your camera controls, extra batteries, extra memory cards, and bug spray.

2 - Location

Arrive early to find the best location.

You need a location:

• Where the fireworks will be in front of you, not overhead.

Therefore, the best location may not be on the site of the display.

• With a clear view.

You don't want people's heads in every photograph, nor do you want lights, the moon, branches and wires.

Branches and wires may not be noticeable in your viewfinder if you arrive when it's dark already.

Also, avoid locations where a street light, or other light source, is shining on your camera lens.

The light could create flare.

• Where landmarks can be included in the frame, as well as reflections on water.

• Where you can set up your tripod, and where no one will trip over your tripod's legs.

If needed and possible, spread a blanket to mark the perimeter of your "studio."

• Where you're upwind from the display.

If the smoke is blowing towards you, the fireworks will be obscured.

And, you have less risk of getting ash in your eye.

3 - Frame

You may want to frame the fireworks vertically, as the displays are often more vertical than horizontal.

Be prepared to switch to a horizontal framing for the finale, however.

Practice this when there is some light in the sky.

Remember where landmarks are near the bottom edge of the frame, so the horizon is level.

For example, if the fireworks are being launched from a barge across a river, you want the distant shoreline to be level in your photographs.

4 - Focus

Your camera may have difficulty focusing.

If you use certain icons or scene modes, the camera will focus at infinity.

If your camera has a scene mode called Fireworks, that's the best choice.

Otherwise, use the Night Landscape or Mountain icons, or a landscape scene mode.

5 - Flash

You don't want the flash to be fired.

If you use the Fireworks scene mode, a landscape scene mode, or the Mountain icon, the flash shouldn't fire.

If it does, most cameras allow you to turn the flash off.

Experiment with your camera before the event.

6 - Exposure Settings

As described, use the scene mode called Fireworks.

Otherwise, use the Night Landscape or Mountain icons, or a landscape scene mode.

7 - Evaluating Exposure Settings

Crude Method

The image on your LCD screen can be used for crudely judging exposures.

Better Method

Your LCD screen may highlight overexposed areas with blinking expanses of white or another color.

This is a more accurate way to evaluate your exposure settings.

If there are many overexposed areas, reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor.

Use the exposure compensation feature.

Best Method

If your camera can display histograms, you can use them for evaluating your exposure.

If there's a vertical line ling the right edge of the histogram, the photograph is overexposure.

Reduce the amount of light reaching the sensor as described above.

8 - Other Camera Settings

Quality

Use the highest possible JPEG quality.

The greater compression of the lower-quality settings creates artifacts, which will be very noticeable in the dark sky.

ISO

Use a low ISO.

By using a low ISO, there'll be less noise.

9 - Tripping the Shutter

Listen for the sound of a shell or shells going up, and press the shutter release just before they burst.

With a little practice, you can become proficient.

To prevent camera shake from pressing the shutter release, use a remote release.

If you don't have one, press the shutter release very gently.

10 - Just Before the Finale

Check:

• How many exposure you have left on your memory card.

• Battery power.

You don't want to have to change the memory card or batteries during the finale.

11 - Practice

Practice before the event if you've never used:

• Your camera in the dark.

• Manual exposure mode.

• Histograms.

You probably don't have fireworks with which to practice.

As a substitute, have someone swing around a flashlight or a sparkler.

12 - Safety

If you're legally using your own fireworks, follow the advice at the websites below.

American Pyrotechnics Association Safety Information

Consume Products Safety Commission Fireworks Safety

National Council on Fireworks Safety

13 - Printing

If your photographs are printed by a lab, their printers may overexpose photographs with expanses of dark areas.

If this occurs, most labs will reprint the photographs at no additional charge.

14 - More

Digital Camera How-To: Shooting Fireworks

Fireworks Photography

Fireworks Photography Tips

How to Get Great Fireworks Photos Peter K. Burian

Photographing Fireworks with a Digital Camera

Shooting Fireworks: Capture The Spectacle

Shooting Fireworks (Indoors) Frank Van Riper