I guess a lot depends on what sort of finish you're after from the shots, I'm not an expert either, but I think the best thing to do is experiment, here's some of the things I would try:
- If you go for a longer exposure you will get streaks of light and short exposure will give you sharp sparks of light.
- I'd go with a tripod and reasonably wide angled lens, get that pointing up at the sky and try a variety of short exposure shots and some longer exposure shots.
- Maybe set the camera's ISO rating to something around 200 to 400 as well.
- Ensure the camera is correctly white balanced too.
- Use long exposures for people holding sparklers and manually trigger a flash before at the end of the exposure or set your flash to sync with the second curtain/end of the exposure to freeze the person without losing the movement of the sparkler.
At the Trafford Centre and Matlock Illumination last weekend I cheated and used the camera's automatic setting but with a twist. Shutter priority of 2-5 seconds shots (any longer and I could only see white.)
Woohoo now Assistant Manager!
It's hard to use camera metering because that assumes the light content of a scene doesn't change through the exposure time, but with fireworks you usually want more than just a freeze capture so you want several seconds, during which time the light levels vary and the camera won't know what to do.
So it's easiest to stick it on full manual. Low ISO, f/8 or so and bulb exposure will let you open the shutter before the firework goes off and you can then release it at the right time to get the right amount of trails.
Yes, you will need a tripod. How do you know where to position the camera? You don't - either use a wide angle to capture a large portion of sky and crop later, or just spam and hope to get lucky. It's digital after all
Agree with the suggestions so far:
1. Tripod (or camera on a wall or something) a must.
2. Use manual mode, don't try to 'freeze' the firework with a fast shutter, instead use a long exposure, and something like f/8 and ISO 200.
Another trick, get a piece of black card. Hold it in front of the lens when there are no fireworks to stop too much light entering the camera. Just before a firework (guesswork) lift the card out of the way, and afterwards replace the card. Be careful not to touch the lens and hence shake the camera. This way you can get 3 or 4 fireworks in a picture without too much stray light causing your photograph to be washed out.
Normally you just use a long exposure, but there's an alternative defocussing method here:
Those poor children are going to burn! Get them away from the fire!
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