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Shooting Fireworks

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I think we have done this in the past but I thought I would post some tips for shooting the Fourth of July fireworks.

1. You will need a tripod. If you don’t have that try propping your camera on a brick wall, upside down pail, whatever is handy to make the camera stationary.

2. Use a remote control or the timer function on your camera. Most cameras, even P&S’s will likely have a timer function.

3. Use the following settings as a guideline. Your camera may or may not have some of the same features.

ISO 100, aperture f8 – f10. Shutter speed starting around 5 seconds and experiment with longer or shorter times as you want. If your camera doesn’t allow you to set these things try using the fireworks mode, landscape mode or night mode.

4. Make sure you are zoomed out and that your batteries are fully charged, your memory card has room and shoot on the highest possible quality setting.

5. Bring a flashlight to help you change settings on the camera.

6. Find a good location that might include some nice backgrounds. A city skyline, a fence in the foreground, a lake things that can add interest to the burst going off.

7. Above all enjoy the show, the camera can be secondary to having a nice time with family and friends and enjoying the fireworks.

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Great tutorial, Dan. I haven't attmepted this since I had my Nikon 35mm.

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Solid advice Dan. Depending on the lens a person uses, you can get some cool effects like Dan is eluding to. A wide angle works great for the environmental fireworks shots. I tend to grab a telephoto lens and get in tight to the burst so it fills the frame.

One thing he forgot to mention is set your focus point to infinity and TURN OFF AUTOFOCUS. Your camera will hunt for focus in the low light conditions and if it doesn't have a highly advanced autofocus system, it can cause you to miss some shots.

One question for the guys with MLO experience. Will it work alright for fireworks? I haven't yet played with MLO so I might have to practice just a bit before hand.

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I've never had a problem with autofocus but then I use * button for focus. As long as I don't push the * button I won't get focus when I push the shutter button. smile These are generic tips for P&S as well as DSLR, many P&S's you can't turn off the autofocus but if you can turn it off that may help.

MLO??????

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I assume MLO means mirror lockup. At shutter speeds of, say 1/30 to 1 or 2 seconds, locking up the mirror is handy. But for longer shutter speeds it's not very important, because the portion of time taken up with minute camera tremble from the mirror slapping is only a small fraction of the total time the shutter is open.

I've got many photographs that are tack sharp shot at 5 to 15 seconds without mirror lockup. Just depends. If I was doing 1 or 2 second exposures, I'd use it.

I use manual exposure settings and generally start with the settings Dan mentioned, branching out from there.

Also, I switch to manual focus, then focus on infinity, then back it off just a tiny bit.

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Yeah, I was talking about mirror lock up. Don't have any experience with it so that was why I asked.

I guess it depends on how you focus as well for turning autofocus on or off, but I always shoot AF off for fireworks out of habit. My old digital rebel would try to hunt with autofocus on so I just figured it was easier with it off. I think the reason it would hunt is because I was trying to set the shot before the explosion so I could capture the whole thing rather than right after the explosion. No contrast made it difficult for the old rebel.

I suppose backing just a little off infinity is probably right. Hope everyone gets some awesome shots on Saturday.

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Thanks for the instruction!

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Here's another trick I heard about but haven't tried. Use a longer shutter speed or maybe even bulb setting. Use a black card to hold in front of the lens and once the bomb explodes take down the card. You can put it up again until another goes off then take it back down again. This way you get multiple bursts in one shot and you can control how much trailing off you get. I'm going to give it a shot. Sounds like fun.

Thanks for the tips. I've never shot fireworks but I will be this year.

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I've done this. It works great.

BTW, some of those shots we see of many, many fireworks exploding all at the same time are not a single capture. Instead it's usually several images with identical framing blended together. If you see an image like this, you can generally tell it's blended because the single frames with the huge bursts (you know, most fireworks displays have a final crescendo) are riddled with brown smoke from previous fireworks.

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Use a longer shutter speed or maybe even bulb setting. Use a black card to hold in front of the lens and once the bomb explodes take down the card. You can put it up again until another goes off then take it back down again. This way you get multiple bursts in one shot and you can control how much trailing off you get. I'm going to give it a shot. Sounds like fun.

Now that you mention it, that's the way I did it with my 35mm, eons ago. It worked quite well.

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