Thursday, March 11, 2010

Black Card Photography II - Fireworks

Fireworks photography is a relatively easy theme in photography and the two most important gadgets needed are a tripod and any camera that has an adjustable shutter speed no less than a few seconds. The principle of fireworks photography is to catch the moving trail of fireworks from launch until it's finished exploding which usually takes a few seconds. As a long time exposure is used in fireworks photography, secure your camera to something that will ensure it doesn’t move during the photo shooting. If you have a better camera, there are a few settings to perfect the fireworks photography.

General settings:
Set your camera and lens to manual; focus on something in a distance (infinite usually works just fine); a low ISO (100/200) to get the cleanest shot possible; turn off Noise Reduction to maximize the number of photos you can capture (noise reduction can slow you down by half); photo format in RAW (an ideal format for post editing if needed, expecially for correcting white balance and noise reduction)
Aperure setting:
Set your aperture to f8-f16 with ISO 100, which gives you a pretty good depth-of-field. As the emission of fireworks is very bright, a mid to small range of F stop usually works well in such settings. The difference between mid (f8) and small (F16) aperture is that a smaller aperture gives thiner trails of light whereas bigger aperture fattens trails out.

Shutter speed:
Set the shutter speed to buld. A remote release in hand in buld mode gives you total control of shutter speeds, resulting in various fireworks patterns. (Details later)

Black card:
Unlike my black card photography part I, the application of a black card in fireworks photography isn't to get a balanced exposure in a great dynamic range of luminance between the lightest and darkest areas of the image but to black out smoke as well as to prevent an over-exposed image due to too many 'bursts' in one frame with complex exposures.

Left: over-exposed due to too many bursts at the bottom of the frame; right: the complete trails of fireworks in different altitudes were captured by using a black card.

Black card photography in fireworks, first, use spot metering mode to measure the exposure time of the foreground and follow the steps as follows:

Don't be afraid to try, you never know what you might get as a result. Good luck and let me know.


Protocol Snow said...

Very good tips! I'll have to look into this black card trick as it's the first time I've heard of it. I read "black card part 1" as well, very interesting!

Hanjié said...

I am glad you find it interesting. I would like to see some photos though; if you ever practice these technics, please add a link in the comments

Damian Synnott said...

Great tips, looking forward to trying out this technique. Thanks.

Angie Bonser-Lain said...

Thanks for the advice, Hanjie! After reading through your site, which was luckily in June, I took what I learned and applied it to my first attempt at photographing fireworks, seen here!

These were taken in Fort Hood, Texas. Our entire state is suffering from a multiple-year-long drought, and finding firework shows in the summer has been a real challenge. I'm so happy I found your site in time to learn how to properly capture this rare Texas event!

For anyone catching their own show this winter, or next summer, I HIGHLY recommend getting a class 10 memory card. I used a class 6 for these, and waiting for a 2-minute RAW format exposure to write to the card was like fingernails on a chalkboard while BEAUTIFUL displays took place as your camera blinked "busy" at you.

Happy shooting, everyone!!

ali naqvi said...

Its really inspiring work...thanks for sharing.!!! Plastic Cards

A Ali said...

Great tips, looking forward to trying out this technique.

Secure Car Parking Manchester said...

Fireworks are really incredible to photograph. The thrill of capturing the right moment is invigorating.