4th of July is getting close.  Not all of us will be going to Disneyland or Cal Expo or some other big fireworks show.  Even if your just shooting good old safe and sane fireworks it doesn’t mean that you can’t still get some really cool shots.  Here’s some tips on how to do just that.

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First:  Even though it’s dark out set your ISO to base to control the noise.  Remember, it may be dark out but the sparks themselves are very bright.

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200mm, f/8, 1/5th, ISO 100

Second:  Use a long lens and zoom right in there.  Most likely you wont have a great backdrop for your shots.  It will probably be things like street lamps, mail boxes, your neighbors and friends, cars, etc.  Zoom in and compress the unsightly background elements right into oblivion.  Zooming way in will also show you and your viewers a close up perspective of things they usually only see from several feet away.

alt DSC03421200mm, f/8, 1/15th, ISO 100

Third:  This is probably the most important thing I can tell you.  Put your camera in manual and Drag that shutter…  This means use slow shutter speeds to give time for those sparks to leave trails.  I personally like to float between 1/5th and 1/20th of a second.  I’ve already said to put your ISO at base which for most cameras is 100.  I’ve now told you to put your shutter speed somewhere between 1/5th and 1/20th.   So you guessed it.  The main variable in your exposure will now be aperture.  Just set your aperture to whatever you need to get a nice exposure.  Don’t worry too much about your depth of field.  I usually end up somewhere around f/6.3 to f/8 in order to get a nice exposure.

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200mm, f/7/1, 1/5th, ISO 100

In case your wondering auto focus usually works pretty well because the fireworks will be the brightest thing in your shot.  I will sometimes hand hold but a tripod helps.  I also recommend getting really low to the ground.  One last thing.  If you really want to get a nice shallow depth of field and really nice bokeh you’ll need a neutral density filter.  This will allow you to shoot at around f/2.8 and faster.  I would go for a simple ND8 (3 stop).

Happy shooting.