January 13, 2007
This is it! Last day of the World Pyro Olympics and I know most of you are coming today on the last day of WPO. You don't have time to experiment on taking firework photos and you got only two chances: One, during the much-awaited China Pyrotechnics show and two, for our very own Philippines Exhibition Show!!
Here are the ultimate tips on Fireworks Photography updated with some of my learnings from the earlier shoots:
1. Bring a tripod. If you are serious in taking clean firework shots, then bring or borrow a tripod. Otherwise, you'll get blurring, bleeding, or shaking shots of the fireworks.
2. Use Bulb, f8 or f16. For SLR cameras, use manual mode, Bulb settings as your shutter speed, and either use f/8 or f/16 as your aperture. Once you use the Bulb setting, you will have the creative freedom to determine when to close the shutter or not. Use f/8 throughout the fireworks show and start using f/16 during the finale.
3. Learn from overexposed fireworks. A good shot of the fireworks is usually clean and colorful. If your photo came out white, it is overexposed and keep a mental note of these mistakes (how long you exposed it, etc.)
4. Frame with a good foreground. Anybody can take a decent and even by-chance shot of the fireworks. What makes a winning fireworks shot is a good framing and a good foreground. A foreground could be silhouettes, lovers watching the show, people taking photographs, etc.
5. Use ISO 100. I've made this mistake a couple times already where I set my ISO to 1600 and all my fireworks shot came as over exposed. Use the less sensitive ISO setting in your camera.
6. Manual Focus. Most of the time you just need to pre-focus your shot and then set it to manual focus. You can also set the manual focus to infinity.
7. Recharge Battery and Bring a Backup. Last night, I forgot to charge and left my extra battery at home. Make sure that your battery is fully recharged and you have an extra battery. (I have to really repeat this a number of times to myself too! )
8. The Art of Timing the Fireworks. The technical setup is easy, and the hard part is timing the fireworks. You need to be able to sense how long you should expose your camera for the fireworks. There are a lot of aspects, if you come across a bright huge firework, you have to close the shutter already. If the fireworks is color blue or orange, then you might need to expose it a little bit more. This takes practice and I've been practicing this technique ever since on the first day of the WPO. You have 20+ minutes to practice so don't panic if you are not able to get a good shot with your first try.
9. Use a Black Illustration Board. To avoid overexposure, you can use a black illustration board to manually cover the lens without closing the shutter. This will make it possible for you to expose a multiple fireworks in a single frame.
10. Have Fun. Best of all, you gotta have fun. What is the point of going to the World Pyro Olympics if you spent the entire time looking through your camera. Pause for a while to applause and marvel at the awesome fireworks!