Five Quick Tips For Photographing Fireworks

I happened to be photographing a local firework display last week and it occurred to me that plenty of people approach firework photography with trepidation, when in reality it is quite straight forward.
The two images in this update are snapshots taken from a hotel balcony near Lake Garda, Italy. I’m not going to pretend they are competition-winning firework masterpieces – they’re not – but they are an example of what you can achieve very quickly and easily. I didn’t know the display was going to happen… until it happened! I then had a minute or so to get the camera onto a tripod, compose the images, and choose some settings before firing off a few shots – and then the display ended. It’s easy for anyone to do this if they just keep the following 5 guidelines in mind.

fireworks over Lake Garda

1. The right kit can help you. Fireworks usually require long-ish (greater than 1 second) exposures, so consider investing in a good tripod and (if your camera supports it) a remote shutter-release button. If the remote release is not an option, see whether your camera offers a self-timer / release-delay function. A two second delay between pressing the release and the shutter opening should prevent camera shake whilst still enabling you to capture some spectacular bursts of light.
Whilst not essential, a wide angle lens can help capture foreground interest to give the display some context. This also helps with focussing. Rather than trying to focus on the fireworks themselves, it is easier to focus on something in the medium-distant foreground and dial in a narrow aperture (around f16) to achieve a deep zone of sharpness that should include the fireworks themselves. Whichever lens you use, a lens hood will help reduce the lens flare that can be quite pronounced with long exposures.

2. Experiment with different exposure settings in manual or shutter priority mode. Since the camera’s meter can make a right mess of exposure settings for fireworks, I recommend manual exposure mode. Set a low ISO (100-200) for the best picture quality, and a narrow aperture (f11-f16) as described in tip 1 above. The shutter speed will then be your main variable; start somewhere between 6 to 10 seconds and check the camera’s LCD screen or histogram view (if available) before varying the shutter speed for subsequent shots.

3. An alternative to setting a precise shutter speed is to use bulb mode. This is where you press the shutter release once to open and again to close the shutter – counting the seconds in between (or just waiting for the firework bursts to fade). A remote shutter release button is pretty essential if you want to avoid camera shake with this method. Not all cameras will offer bulb mode, but most SLRs should.

4. Your built-in flash or flashgun are not going to do anything for you here – unless you want to light something in the foreground – so turn them off!

5. Layer up! If you like to edit your images using software such as Photoshop, shooting multiple images with the exact same composition allow you to build up the bursts into a spectacular single image using lighten mode for layers you add to the first image. If the foreground becomes too light or blurry, simply mask it out from the additional layers.
You might also like to play with black and white conversations – not the most obvious approach to take with a subject that is so colourful, but personally I rather like the look it can create.

fireworks over Lake Garda - black and white

To chat about photography or Photoshop tuition for absolute beginners, call me on 07757 259390 or send me a message via email.

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Flower Power – Photography for Florists

Maybe it’s because I was born in the 1960s (just), but some of my favourite commissions have involved photographing flowers and floral installations for various Essex florists.

flower arrangement against off-white background

Weddings are a key component of any floristry business, and flowers for the big day can be displayed against a simple studio background or photographed on location.

wedding flowers in church

For competition floristry, I am happy to source models, make-up artists and hair stylists, or sometimes – as with the image below – the model is a friend of the client (actually, Mina of Minnie’s Henhouse fame is friends with both me and the client, Amy Curtis).

floral headdress on nude model

For e-commerce sites it is often best to keep it simple – a plain white background allows the flowers to do the talking. If you sell via 3rd party websites they will thank you for having professional imagery that readily fits in with their other product photography.

exotic flower in glass vase

If your gallery has capacity for multiple images of each product, getting in close can show off the beautiful detail of your floral creations.

detail of floral arrangement

Some designs even lend themselves to a more abstract approach.

artistic floral design for competition

The images above and below were created for Fusion Flowers international floristry competition a few years back. I photographed the designs of two florists (Amy Curtis and Amy Ford) for each of that year’s four categories. A good deal of planning and communication went into shoots that took us from studio to cottage interior to Alresford Creek and out into the middle of a field somewhere in East Anglia. Both Amys enjoyed successes in the competition.

floral art installation

Of course, sometimes you just need some simple studio shots of a lovely bunch of flowers…

bouquet of flowers against pure white background

To chat about your photography requirements, call me on 07757 259390 or send me a message via email.

Or check out some more examples of my product photography.

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