October 1, 2007 HelpLine

Q) I read your HelpLine column a few months back about photographing fireworks. Thanks for the tips. I really like the shots I got, but I’m wondering about overexposure. Also, the center of many of the fireworks seemed to be just plain white with no color. Was I exposing wrong?

Sandy D., Via the Internet

A) I’m glad you were able to try fireworks photography. It sounds like you had good success. Without seeing your shots, it’s hard to give you an exact answer regarding exposure.

Typically, exposure involves shutter speed, aperture and image sensor sensitivity (or ISO). Fireworks photography usually involves B (Bulb) or long shutter speeds-the length of the exposure is due to capturing the explosive event more than trying to capturing more light.

So the fireworks exposure equation revolves more around aperture and ISO. What I’d recommend next time is to set your ISO low and then try using smaller apertures. Let your histogram be your guide.

Your other complaint when taking fireworks pictures is how the center of the display oftentimes is “blown out” or overexposed. This is because usually the brightest part of a firework explosion is at the moment when the shell explodes. Try this technique, although it takes a bit of practice-using the Bulb mode and a piece of black cardboard that acts as your shutter. Hold the cardboard over your lens and then press and hold the shutter release. After the initial explosion of the shell (that’s the brightness in the center), remove the cardboard to capture the image. Finally, cover the lens again and release the shutter. What you’re trying to do with this technique is to photograph the colored sparks after the explosion.


Leave a Comment