Some of the most difficult events to shoot are fireworks displays. Even with automatic settings on a point-and-shoot camera, chances are very high that the photo will look dark, the fireworks will be blurred, the photo will look poorly composed, or all of the above.
Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet.
She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.
Some of the most difficult events to shoot are fireworks displays. Even with automatic settings on a point-and-shoot camera, chances are very high that the photo will look dark, the fireworks will be blurred, the photo will look poorly composed, or all of the above. With Independence Day this weekend, here are a few tips that can make your Fourth of July photos look a little better.
1. Use a tripod/sturdy surface: If you have a tripod, this is the simplest way to make your pictures focused and clear. By using a tripod, you can keep your shutter open longer, allowing more light in to capture more of both the foreground and the background as well as reducing blur. Even if you have a little point-and-shoot camera, you can buy miniature tripods at most major camera and electronics stores. If you can't get your hands on a tripod, try to find some kind of sturdy surface where you are, whether it be a fence, a rock, a table, or something else that you can steady your camera on to reduce camera shake.
2. Frame the image: Framing is key. If you want a memorable photo, don't just shoot the fireworks themselves, if you can avoid it. Try to get people in there, take note of whatever might below the fireworks (quite often its a river or lake, thus a shore is nearby too). Try out as many different angles when shooting these pictures, either by moving around yourself or simply moving the angle of your camera lens. Fireworks are a celebration. Keep that in mind when trying to capture a moment you want to remember.
Four more tips after the jump.
3. Use a telephoto lens: Again, if you have access to one of these, by all means, use it. While I did say you should get pictures with a lot of elements in the previous tip, taking close-ups of the fireworks with a telephoto lens steadied on a solid surface also make for attractive photos.
4. Avoid using flash: Flash will make your photos washed out and/or very fake looking, and you'll lose the true color of the fireworks.5. Mind your aperture and shutter speed: Obviously, these are both easier when you have access to a tripod. Even if you zoom in with a telephoto lens, you don't want a small aperture as the fireworks won't be entirely focused. The Digital Photography School recommends somewhere between f/8 and f/16 with ISO 100, so play around with those until you find something that fits. If you're holding your camera and not using a surface to balance, you're probably not going to be able to shoot anything above f/5.6 without creating a very blurry photo. As for your shutter speed, this will also take some practice shots to find out what works for your camera. Don't keep the shutter open for too long as fireworks are already bright by themselves, and you might risk over-exposing the photos. It might be best to set your aperture, and then allow your camera to decide the best shutter speed.
6. Use the blur: This applies well to point-and-shoots that often don't allow you to change all of these settings except the ISO and setting the camera to "Fireworks" mode. Kodak advises that if you can't beat the blur, make it an artistic element.
If you have any additional tips, please share them in the comments box. Happy Independence Day!