**Disclaimer** I wrote this post with my new baby boy in one arm so please disregard any typos & don’t email me about them lol **
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Don’t have your own fireworks to photograph? Try the Summer Love Collection which has firework overlays!!!
Last year at this time it was like a monsoon here-if you visited here you may have even gone home it was so bad. Fireworks cancelled…misery for those on vacation and for locals trying to go anywhere. This year, the heat index is 112 and full sun. Such a difference! At any rate, I get lots of questions when I post sparkler/firework images so I thought I would share some tips for shooting fireworks and some tips for shooting sparklers as well as settings for shooting fireworks.
First, if you can shoot at dusk or right before/after sunset that is your best bet-you get that yummy sky and you can still see the fireworks! Obviously with public displays you can’t do this but if you are photographing clients or your own family, you have more control. But don’t take too much control if they are family images-you don’t want a styled shoot…you want this beautiful mess of a picture…play clothes, or in my kids case, the dress Presley wouldn’t take off for three weeks and Greyson’s superman pj pants, and Olivia’s always-easy going-style. This is the true story of a family holidayThis one was shot at 7:40 on a day with a sunset time of 7:39 pm. It was taken with a Canon 8-15 mm at 13 mm using a Canon 1D-X. Settings were 1/400 @ f/4 ISO 1250.
Circa 2011, again my kids all a mess…NYE…This was taken with a Canon 5d Mark III, Canon 50 mm f/1.2L. Settings were 1/250 (to get some of the detail of the actual sparklers) @ f/1.8, ISO 8000 (embrace the noise….this was at midnight on New Years Eve with no moonlightAlthough I kept this at 1/250 because kids move and I wanted sparkler details, if you don’t have a camera that is capable of ISO 8000 or you don’t want this much noise (I kindof like it-it adds to the character) you can always reduce that shutter speed to let in more light but you have to be super still and you may lose some details other sparklers because the embers are falling and a slow shutter speed won’t freeze them.
Get the cute details and the looks on their faces – kids are enraptured by holding fireworks. I love my husbands hand and the look on Presley’s face.This was taken with a Canon 5d Mark III, Canon 50 mm f/1.2L. Settings were 1/250 (to get some of the detail of the actual sparklers) @ f/1.8, ISO 8000.
Can you believe this is what a sparkler looks like up close? I loved seeing this-just did it for fun but it is really neat! This was taken with a Canon 5d Mark III, Canon 50 mm f/1.2L. Settings were 1/2500 (since I didn’t have to worry about movement and I was shooting something that was lit up, I could really raise that shutter and freeze those details, plus with something that bright you have to dial it up so not to blow out the highlights/details) @ f/1.8, ISO 2000.
Again, this was shot right after sunset at 7:57 with sunset being at 7:43 PM but they were *remotely* still. Taken with Canon 5d Mark III using an 8-15 mm f/4L. Settings were 1/160, f/4, at ISO 2000. We still had a little light being that we were at the beach and the sun can go all the way down without obstruction.
Now this was taken the same night within minutes of the one above and I was still able to capture it with the same settings (I am not saying it is clear as day but sometimes, especially with your family images, to get the shot even if its not tack sharp).
Another in the complete darkness-lots of noise reduction on this one…It was taken with a Canon 8-15 mm at 15 mm using a Canon 1D-X. Settings were 1/125 @ f/4 ISO 2500. It was super dark so I had to dial back that shutter speed-luckily the kids were semi-still.
And this is one of my all time favorite (even though it is also the noisiest) firework pictures. It was at a party for Greyson’s birthday at my parents bay lot and Grey was sitting on our boat, pitch black outside, but the emotion and occasion are way more important than the technicalities and just wait til you see the settings anyway! Canon 5d Mark III using a Canon 8-15mm at 13mm. Settings were 1/20 (yes you read that right) @ f/4, ISO 16000 (yes also right). So this one pushed the limits for sure but I got the shot and I still love it!
So my tips for shooting fireworks and sparklers:
1. If its your family celebration, just get the shot, push the limit, see what you can do!
2. Shoot, if possible, at or close to sunset/dusk.
3. If you can’t shoot at sunset/dusk, embrace the noise. You can use any number of noise reduction including Imagenomic Noiseware to assist you if you want to cut down.
4. Make sure your shutter speed is high enough to freeze the motion of the fireworks or sparklers and your subjects and THEN set your ISO to help exposure.
5. Look for different perspectives…a few of these were taken dead on and semi posed but get some action and my fav one above is such a fun persecutive-you are getting the fireworks but you are getting that great reaction as well.
6. This fisheye I am shooting with is definitely not the best one because it is a f/4. If you can rent a wide angle with a lower f/ that is great-like a 24 mm f/1.2 or something. If you want to find out the best wide angles for your camera model go to google and search for fisheye AND “your camera model” and then hit Images and you can see different shots that were taken with that lens so you can see what your best bet is for the type of image you want to create.
7. Experiment with the editing-saturate, use noise reduction, even some faux HDR is fun.
But mostly, have FUN and be CAREFUL & CREATIVE!