Remember remember the 5th of November - tips for photographing fireworks by Isabella Norman
Red leaves scatter the ground and the tree’s bony branches are beginning to show, which means one thing: Autumn. Autumn is full of memories for me such as, walking through the orange arboretum in the Forest of Dean or simply looking out my bedroom window and not seeing the distinct green I had been used to seeing replaced by the same warming orange and reds. However, probably the most distinct memory I have of autumn is going to a firework display, like the one they do at Speech House, which will leave you mesmerized by its colourful ambient lights. Fireworks, Bonfires and Sparklers can all be expected this season but how do you photograph these spectacular scenes? (Hint: you might need a tripod).
Recently I have found myself bombarded by an array of sparkler writing photos and have become both jealous by these fantastic photos and intrigued with how to create these pictures. I can remember being little (literally last year) and trying to write my name with the sparkler but the words sadly fizzling out before I had finished much to my dismay. However, with these fantastic photos the bright words you create will never be forgotten. So I decided to do a little investigation into how you can create these photos for yourself and here’s how:
- Tripod- the camera will be needed to be kept still and a tripod is ideal but otherwise a wall or ledge will suffice.
- A long shutter speed- about 10 seconds is the average time for writing but this can be dependent on the length of the word and the speed it is written at, so it’s best to experiment. This is why shutter priority is perfect for this as you can simply just adjust the shutter speed without having to worry about any of the other settings.
- Writing technique- If like me your lefts and rights aren’t the best then maybe delegate this job to someone else as you will have to stand with your body central to the camera and will have to write backwards from right to the left as the camera, since it’s facing you, picks up the writing left to right. Also, as the camera will never stop recording the emitted light it’s best to do big joined up loopy writing as trying to write the letters separately may make the writing look disjointed or messy.
The speed and the spontaneity of fireworks make them great to watch but really difficult to photograph. The bright colours, the large distance between you and them and then the speed of them makes a photographer’s job harder than taking photos of a naughty toddler but with these 3 tips you will be able to take some really great firework photos this Bonfire night.
- Use a Tripod-This is the most important tip as making sure the camera is still is really important as this will allow you to use a lower ISO and a deeper depth of field, which will be needed as the fireworks will more than likely be quite far away.
- Watch your Horizons – A key thing to consider when lining up your shot is if the horizon is straight. This is particularly important if you’re going to shooting with a wide focal length and will get other background elements in your shots (i.e. if you’re at a display try not to get people’s heads in ).
- Aperture- Middle size apertures are the perfect size, such as f/8 to f/16, especially as it’s best to shoot with a longer shutter speed.
- Shutter speed- Fireworks, due to the fact they’re basically explosions move rather fast and as a result the best photographs capture this movement. This means you will need quite a long exposure. The best way to do this is to shoot in ‘bulb’ mode as it allows you to keep the shutter open for as long as you hold down the shutter butter. Using this technique you hit the shutter as the firework is about to explode and hold it down until its finished exploding. An alternative is to simply set your camera’s shutter speed for 2-3 seconds.
The thought of a bonfire evokes so many of my senses; smell: the smoke mixing with the sweet smell of roasting marshmallows; sight: the beautiful amber light shining from the beckoning flames; sound: the crackling of the battle between the fire and the wood; taste: the distinct taste of hot chocolate, which somehow seems to taste so much better when accompanied by crisp air and stars. How do you somehow bundle up all of the feelings and make someone else feel them when they look at your photos? Here is how.
- Use a tripod- I know shocker, but it’s a key element for any night photography as you can then proceed to use a longer shutter speed.
- Shutter speed- Its best to use a long shutter speed of about 1-2 seconds. A longer shutter speed can be perfect for bonfire photography as curling of smoke or the flickering of the fire can be created. Although, if you’re taking photos with people in them it would be best to ask them not to move whilst a photo is being taken to avoid any blur.
- Shoot in AWB- it’s best to shoot in auto white balance and then warm up the photos after in Photoshop or light room just to avoid difficulty on the day.
Hopefully with these tips and tricks you will be able to take some great bonfire night photos that will perfectly capture the spirit of the evening. All you need know is some fireworks, hot chocolate and good friends.