Photo Tip #6: How to photograph Fireworks (NYC July 4)

If you are considering photographing the fireworks this evening here are a few things you might want to consider to get the perfect photograph!

This evening the fireworks will again be shot off on the Hudson River side of Manhattan rather than the East River. And although you may think the best place to view this display is from Manhattan you might think again. If you are in Manhattan then your background will be dark New Jersey. You may get that little Hoboken train station tower in the distance, but why photograph the fireworks with the Manhattan skyline as your backdrop?

You'll want to be in a spot where you an get a good view of things like the Empire State Building. As the fireworks will be sent off between 18th and 43th Street you may want to consider finding a location near Hoboken or Weehawken. Although there will be lots of people out who want to be at the very "front", there is not really a need to be at the front, why? because the fireworks will not be going off across from you but way up in the sky. You just need a location where there won't be a 7' foot tall guy standing in front of your camera!

Now that you have a location how are you going to photograph these fireworks? Some things to consider. Your camera takes a meter reading as soon as you push the shutter button halfway down and it locks that reading. Unfortunately the fireworks are not a static object and the light is constantly changing. So this is going to take some guess work. First, turn off your flash! It's not going to help. Second, make sure your camera is mounted firmly on your tripod and image stabilization is turned off. Third, set your camera to Manual mode. Start with ISO 100 or 200 (the lower the better as you will actually have a lot of light available). Try starting at F/8 with a 1 second exposure. The key is to have a shutter speed long enough to allow the light to drag a little bit, creating a bursting flower affect. If you have a very short exposure you will only see dots. Remember the longer the exposure the more light trails you will get and the shorter the exposure the more dots you will get.

Once you have the "right" shutter speed for a burst, adjust your aperture to get the "perfect" exposure.

All this sounds so easy doesn't it? Unfortunately NYC's Macy's July 4th fireworks display is usually the BIGGEST one in the country and it lasts all of 26 minutes. In other words there isn't much time to "experiment". Be sure to set up your angle and make only one or two changes on your angle after that, otherwise you won't get any photographs.

Once you are close to the exposure you need just keep firing. So make sure you have enough memory cards and battery for your 26 minutes! If you have a "fireworks" mode that works very well. You just need to be on a tripod.

Good luck and have fun tonight! (btw, beer may not improve your photography tonight)