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photographing fireworks on july 4th ~ a few tips {charlotte ~ lake wylie photographer}

By July 5, 2013 No Comments

Last year was my first attempt at photographing fireworks on the 4th of July – now it’s a slight obsession of mine (along with the photographing the moon! thanks to my photography bucket list…).   Our neighborhood in Lake Wylie backs up to Camp Thunderbird and every year the camp throws an amazing fireworks show.  Our home is right next to a waterfront park that is ideal for watching (and photographing) the event.  The weather here has been sooo crazy with cloudy-rain-storm-sunshine cycles all throughout the summer days so by the time the show started around 9:30pm a lot of folks had cleared out of the soggy park.  Thankfully this made it easy for me to claim the best spot for shooting without any trouble at all 😉

Photographing fireworks is really pretty simple if you have a DSLR and are comfortable shooting in manual mode.  I recently upgraded my camera and haven’t gotten a new remote so instead of using bulb mode this year I just switched my shutter speeds manually during the show.  I really never went higher than 15 or 20 seconds so it wasn’t a problem.  I gave some technical info on my fireworks post last year, but here are a few tips about how I took these shots below:

~use a tripod! I’m in serious need of updating my tripod but I’ve got a cheap rickety old thing that worked just fine.  Just make sure it is substantial enough to hold steady your camera + lens choice.  This is a MUST because you will be shooting at such low shutter speeds!

~use a long lens!  Unless you are going to be right underneath the show a long lens is probably going to work best.  I was pretty far away last year and took most of my shots with my 55-300mm.  This year I chose my Tokina 100mm 2.8 because it is my lightest/smallest/longest lens that my crap tripod would support 🙂

~set ISO to 100! Photographing fireworks is probably the only time you’d ever use an ISO this low at night 😉 low ISO means your photos will be super crisp and gorgeous without any grain.  Plus you need a low ISO because you will be using a long shutter speed and don’t want to overexpose the shot!

~use a small aperture! You want to use an f-stop between f10 and f16 so that everything stays sharp and in focus. Most of my shots were taken at f11 or f13.  The small aperture also plays a role in getting proper exposure since the biggest variable is your shutter speed.

~use a long shutter speed! My shutter speeds ranged from 6 seconds to 15 or 20 seconds, most at about 10 or 13 seconds.  The long shutter speeds help you get multiple bursts in one image, but if the shutter speed is too long you will just end up with a big light blob (and overexpose your photo – fireworks are BRIGHT!).

~use your self timer! or a remote if you have one.  I set mine on a 2 second delay so that I could keep shooting almost continuously throughout the show.  By setting a self timer you avoid camera shake that comes with pressing down the shutter.

~incorporate your surroundings!  Besides the incredible fireworks, some of my favorite aspects about these photos is seeing the homes, landscape, trees, clouds and moving boats around the event.  While the bursts of light are gorgeous, including parts of the surrounding in your perspective make the photos a bit more interesting – IMO <3  Something to consider when choosing your lens – anything longer than 100mm and I couldn’t have achieved this!

I had my white balance set to auto and honestly, these are my JPEGS so I didn’t mess with any settings in ACR.  I did batch them through the same luminosity/saturation action I made and used on my beach photos but other than that these are SOOC.   Hope everyone had a great 4th of July!!  Enjoy!

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Beth Wade Photography is located outside Charlotte, NC in Lake Wylie, SC. Beth Wade is Charlotte’s premier newborn photographer specializing in artistic custom family photography. As a professional photographer, Beth captures maternitynewbornbaby and family portraits in Charlotte, North Carolina, Lake Wylie-Fort Mill-Tega Cay, South Carolina and all surrounding areas.