Friday, July 1, 2011


I'm looking forward to shooting some of these this weekend...

And as it happens, our kids will be with Grandpa and Grandma on the 4th, so, as much fun as it is to do the whole fireworks "thing" as a family...

I'm pretty excited to enjoy it alone with Jim.  Which is also fun. 

And much simpler.

I thought I'd share a few tips this morning on how to shoot fireworks yourself, and how to make your final shots just a bit better with a combination of shooting tips, and simple edits done with the free editing tools on Flickr.  These are simple, simple tips- anyone with a DSLR can mess around with this.  And if you're shooting with a Point and Shoot, mess with your special settings (do you have a "fireworks" setting?) and follow the other steps.

Because after all, most of us only get a shot at this once a year, people!  Make it count!

Tons of other photography blogs who write about this stuff all the time are, no doubt, sharing tips today too.  You can read some more about it here, and elsewhere, I'm sure.  It's not like I've got an original blogging idea here.  That would be rare.

But I always always shoot fireworks the "wrong" way- because I don't like loooong trails, and I hate seeing a bunch of smoke in the shot.  I also never use a tripod.

See this?  I don't like all the smoke.

Things to do before you click the shutter button:

1. Watch your view. 

Is there a post or a building or something else that will obstruct your view of the sky?  Avoid it.  It will ruin otherwise great shots, and remember, we're thinking simple tips here using free online software.  If you have Photoshop, you can gauge whether or not you want to take time to remove/fill in distractions later.  

I think you should just move yourself if you can.

2.  Choose appropriate settings.  

People are aaalways asking me what specific settings they should have for a certain type of shot.  All I can give are general parameters.  Every camera and situation will be unique.  Generally, for me, I like to keep my aperture wide open (smallest f/stop possible), and keep my shutter speed slow-ish- something around 1/30 or 1/40.  You can mess around with longer exposures if you'd like.  They will be blurry. 

This all means you'll have to shoot steady.  All the advice you Google will tell you to use a tripod.  Like, as if you want to bring a tripod with you, AND beverages, AND snacks, AND your whole family. 

Hold your camera steady, or perhaps even support your elbows on something, like the hood of your car or a cooler or what have you.  Set up your aperture and shutter speed first to these general settings, then raise your ISO last to get a proper exposure.  Try not to get it up there too high, but your DLSR will perform uniquely- some show tons of grain at 400 or 800, some can go higher.  Work with what you've got.

My shots, your shots, will not be as sharp without a tripod, but, c'mon, who wants to pack one along?  This is for fun.

3.  Try to isolate individual explosions or small groups of them.

Aim for the higher blasts, away from the smoky, lower, cluttered area of the sky-view.

And now for a few quick and easy editing tips to finish them off. 

Here's #1, Straight Out of Camera (SOOC)

Here is the after...

I raised the contrast a bit and darkened the shadows just a scotch as well.  This drops the black (dark) parts out even darker, and makes the light parts more defined and a bit brighter.  I also bumped up the saturation and temperature of the colors just a smidgeon.  Then I sharpened it slightly- not too much or any high ISO grain pops too.  It's subtle.  Editing is aaaall about emphasizing what's already there, and minimizing distraction.


And the edit.

For this one, I dropped the exposure until the smoke fell away to my satisfaction.  Similar to the first edit, I bumped up contrast, and raised the saturation and temp and sharpness just a scotch. Subtle changes.

Have fun this weekend!

No comments: