Here’s some quick tips for taking a firework photo like the one above!
1. Take a tripod, it helps with the long exposures you’re going to be requiring
2. Arrive early, get your drinks lined up and secure yourself a decent vantage point! This is often very hard in a place like London, where huge crowds attend the biggest public displays, and many others will be thinking the same as you.
2. If it allows, switch your camera to a manual focus mode and set your camera’s focus to infinity. Leave it here while shooting the fireworks!
3. Try a low ISO. 100-400 will help with noise and artefacts from the smoke (note this smoke will build up during fireworks displays – i find the best shots will always be taken near the start of the display, before the sky becomes grey and hazy with smoke). Using a low ISO will mean long exposure times, often 3,5,8 seconds – hence tip number one above.
4. Try auto bracketing with your camera set to a multiple exposure for each press of the shutter, if you have a camera that can do this.
5. Lean back, press the trigger, enjoy the fireworks and take tons of shots! portrait, landscape, handheld, try shooting the crowd (great for candids as everyone looks in awe at the fireworks – you’ll need to bump up the ISO if doing this though).
6. Try not to spend the whole time peering through your camera. There’s often some nice toffee apples or pork rolls to be found on these occasions!
7. Bit more technical this one! If you do ‘HDR style’ processing, as I often do, try remixing in the sky from one of your original shots, as the fireworks can look really awful and too fake, when combined from multiple exposures. In the above , 3 exposures were tonemapped in Photomatix. I then took the darkest (-2) exposure and used a layer mask to remix this into the tonemapped image Photomatix had given me. I went quite far with this process, and most of the sky in the resulting image is from a single raw (I chose to remix the sky from the darkest one of my shots because it gave me the best chance of a nice black sky, also to help take out a lot of smoke from the original). Final wave of noise reduction and some adjustments to the water in Topaz Adjust – and I’m fairly happy.
I would love to hear from anyone else learning to process fireworks in these tools. Meanwhile, enjoy the shows..