Fireworks Portraits

2014.07.04
Day One Hundred and Eighty Eight. Taking good pictures of fireworks seems straight forward enough ... until you get back home and look at your shots in full resolution. Then you discover that it's astonishingly hard. I've taken so many bad fireworks pictures over the years. It's frustrating. They look so good when they're only 3 inches wide on the back of your camera. But when you get home you realize just how bad all of the blown highlights are and how little of the color actually came through in the final image, it's disappointing. From my many years of failure, I've discovered that a smaller aperture is definitely better, but once you go below about f/8, you're not buying yourself a whole lot. There seems to be certain fireworks that are simply brighter than others, so the same settings with different fireworks are going to produce different results, and there's nothing you can do about. The ones with really blown highlights and very little color, you just have to delete. The most important thing, other than good luck, is timing. The best shots have fewer actual explosions in them. If too many fireworks go off while your shutter is open, the image becomes chaos. The absolute best (in my opinion) have only one explosion in them. This can be very hard to achieve, given that most of the time during a show, the fireworks are overlapping. Thus, bulb mode is the only way to shoot. You have to control when to start and stop the exposure. Anything else is a waste of time. So remember, use a small aperture to maximize color and bulb mode to ensure good timing. Oh, and bring a heaping package of good luck :)
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