Tampa Wedding Photography - Tampa Mitzvah Photography - and a little bit of life.
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Taking pictures of fireworks
In my classes, I always get a big reaction when I show a picture of fireworks. To a new photographer, it seems like an incredible feat to take a picture that freezes the action like that but by the end of my class they know that it's really quite easy. All you need is a tripod and a slow shutter speed.
This year I decided to take an updated version of my fireworks shot. I didn't want to really "stage" it because I didn't want to distract my kids from enjoying the show. I also didn't want to use much equipment because we were going to be at a friend's house and I didn't want to carry it (Nor did I want to set it all up in the middle of a party.) So, the task became, "How do I get a cool shot with a minimal amount of equipment?"
I brought three things: Camera, flash and tripod.
First, I set up the tripod behind the chair that my daughter was sitting in and extended the legs out so that I could get the camera low. I moved around a bit until I felt I had a good composition for getting Mackenzie and the fireworks both in the frame.
Next, I set the ISO at 800, the aperture at f10 and the shutter speed at 2 seconds.
Why these settings?
I knew that I would be using manual flash and I usually shoot at ISO 800 when I use manual flash. I'm just used to it, is all.
The aperture is at 10 because I want a good depth of field. Why? Because I had to focus manually since it was too dark for the camera to do it. I wanted room for error.
Finally, the shutter speed was just trial and error. By this time the fireworks have started and I am trying different speeds. Two seconds seemed about right.
So, now I have my camera set and ready to go and I start taking pictures, trying to time it so I get a good spread of fireworks.
The last time I did this shot there was a streetlight illuminating my subjects. This time it's pitch black. So, I take the flash in my hand and set it to manual. I set the exposure to -8. For off-camera flash work, I usually start at ISO 800, f5.6 and -8 with a shoot-thru umbrella. I'm shooting at f10 but I'm not using an umbrella (which takes about one stop off the light). So, it's about right. :)
Now the tricky part. I press the shutter and during the 2 second exposure I run over to the side and pop the flash on Mackenzie.
The other guests are looking at me like I'm nuts but I know what I'm doing. Two seconds is plenty of time to take a few steps and pop the flash. I do that about 10 times total.
When it's all done I end up with two good pictures. One has a great sky full of fireworks but Mackenzie is dark because my flash had powered off. The other has a great shot of Mackenzie but a poor fireworks display. All that's left is to combine the two in Photoshop and another fireworks picture is ready to go!