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How to photograph fireworks and lightning?


It's the season for outdoor parties, festivals and fireworks. I propose you to see today how to photograph a fireworks with a camera, type reflex, hybrid or even bridge.

Fireworks photography is not very complicated.

How does your camera work?

The sensor is equipped with photosites. The role of photosites is to capture photons, therefore light, as their name indicates. The longer the exposure time, the more photos the sensor can capture a large number of photons, so the picture becomes brighter and brighter.

When you aim towards the darkness of the night or when you are in a room without any light. There are no photosites to capture. So whether you have an exposure time of one second or ten minutes, the result is the same, as the cells of your sensor have nothing to capture, you will have a black photo.

The fireworks take place after dark. So you will aim towards the sky which is without light, unless you stand in front of the moon, which is not recommended. So you will be able to let your camera take pictures with a long exposure time, from 2 to 5 seconds on average. The only light that your camera can capture is the light that will be released from the fireworks powder flashover. And that's good, that's what we want to capture.

So during the exposure time, your sensor will capture and memorize on your photo the entire route of the fireworks, the bouquet. If you ever make only 1/20 second exposure times, at that moment the fireworks will have covered only a very small distance, which means that on your photo we would have only a small burst of light and not the bouquet of light as on the beautiful fireworks photos. If, on the other hand, you leave your camera on while several fires explode, they will all be in the picture in the end.

The problem that can arise, is if you have a continuous light in the field of your photo or right next to it, like a lighted building, a spotlight or the moon for example. If the light is outside your photo, but right next to it, then you may have rays of light that disturb your photo. If the light is in the field of your photo, you may burn this part of the photo. In this case you will be limited to the exposure time and/or the other two parameters of the exposure triangle, ISO and lens aperture.

The equipment needed to photograph a fireworks display

A tripod, because the exposure time will be 2 seconds to 5 seconds, which is impossible by freehand.

A reflex, hybrid or bridge camera.

Plan several lenses, from the wide-angle lens to the telephoto lens to the trans-standard lens depending on the distance you will find yourself from the fireworks. You must be able to have a wide field of vision if you are ready, or conversely be able to zoom in if you are far away. Fixed focal lenses are not recommended, however, as they leave far fewer framing options. And since you don't always decide exactly where you're going to be in relation to the fireworks, it can be boring.

Place the stabilizer of your lenses on "off" which is useless on tripod and by turning it off it allows to have less vibrations and a sharper picture.

A wireless remote control to be able to use the "Bulb" mode of your camera without the risk of moving your camera.

A level that is fixed on the flash flu so that your camera is vertical or horizontal.

A small lamp to make your adjustments in the dark.

How to set your camera to shoot fireworks?

Set your ISOs as low as possible, 100 or 200 depending on your camera.

Place your lens on the hyperfocal distance then place it in manual focus mode with an aperture between f/8 and f/16 depending on the brightness of the fireworks, which will vary depending on your proximity to the fireworks.

Attach your camera to your tripod and if you have a level, check whether it is vertical or horizontal.

If you have a remote control, place your camera in the "Bulb" mode, either by placing yourself in manual mode and exceeding 30 seconds of exposure, in this case your camera will automatically place itself in bulb mode, or by placing the shooting mode in "blub" mode if your camera contains one.

If you do not have a remote control, place your camera in manual mode with an exposure time that varies from 2 to 5 seconds.

In bulb mode, unlike other shooting modes, the sensor remains exposed as long as you leave the shutter button pressed. Basically you determine the exposure time in real time by pressing and releasing the shutter release button on your camera.

Trigger your photo at the moment or fireworks how from the ground and before it explodes. Out bulb mode let the time elapse and in bulb mode let the fireworks explode completely after pressing remote control ignitor.


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