Confession time - Last Halloween (2016) I *NEARLY* got in over my head a little bit! I photograph for the City of Maple Ridge quite often, and they had approached me about photographing their Halloween fireworks show. As an added bonus, I could shoot them from the roof of a neighbouring tower!
Granted, I’d never once shot fireworks in my entire life, but shhhhhhhhh, they didn’t need to know that. I’d (hopefully) figure it out. But hey, I'm a professional photographer damnit, so I need to be able to figure out how to shoot ANYTHING at ANY TIME!
And thankfully I did, and they LOVED their images! (So much so that they brought me back for their 2017 show… Whew!)
They are actually RIDICULOUSLY easy to photograph, so I’m going to explain how. I want you all to get good at this!
Here’s the equipment you need:
1) DSLR camera (I use the Canon 5D mark 3, but honestly, an entry level one will do just fine)
2) A mid to wide angle lens (I like the 24-70)
4) Cable release (Don’t have one? Go buy one, they’re like twenty bucks)
Now, here are the settings you’re going to use:
1) Bulb mode
3) ISO 200
4) Manual Focus
Here’s what you’re gonna do:
1) Find yourself an interesting foreground to give a locational context to your photo. (Locational context? What the hell… I don’t think I’ve uttered that phrase since university geography…. Sorry, won’t happen again).
2) Figure out your composition – I like to go wide, and high into the sky. Remember, you can crop your photo later if there’s too much blank space, but you can’t add to the fireworks in your photo. And make sure your horizon is straight because it’s one extra annoyance in post production that you shouldn’t need to deal with.
3) Focus on something distant to put your focus to infinity (distant lights or the moon work perfectly), then switch into manual focus, and don’t touch the damn thing again!
4) Your focus will be nice and crisp when the show starts, so with your cable release, keep your shutter open for two to four seconds or so, depending on how much bright the fireworks are. If they’re darker (think reds and greens and purples), hold it open a little longer to get the vibrant colors and the trails. If you hold the shutter open too long, your colors will be WAY blown out, and it’s pretty much impossible to get them back. You gotta experiment with this one, but the back of your camera will definitely let you know if you’re on the right track.
5) Keep f’n shooting! Not like you have to spend money developing the film, right??
When you’re home, pop your photos into Lightroom (or whatever program you like) and make them perfect. I generally like to bump up the contrast, tone down the highlights, jack up the clarity, and crop the photo so there’s less empty sky.
And finally, the fun part. Post that shit on your social media, and revel in your accolades! (Hey, gotta keep that ego fed, right?)
I’d love to see YOUR fireworks photos. Post a link to your work in the comments below, and I’ll check them out!