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How to get the perfect shot when you're shooting fireworks

How to get the perfect shot when you're shooting fireworks

 For these images, the ISO was at 400 and the aperture was set at f/7.1. The left image was .60 seconds, the right image was six seconds. (Photo courtesy Melissa McGhee Photography)

For these images, the ISO was at 400 and the aperture was set at f/7.1. The left image was .60 seconds, the right image was six seconds. (Photo courtesy Melissa McGhee Photography)

Local photographers offer tips for snapping fireworks pics — whether at home or at the big show using a smart phone or DSLR

Nothing beats that perfect photo of the big fireworks explosion. Whether you're photographing in your neighborhood or at the park for the community show, everybody wants that one pic to remember the moment and post on social media. 

Below are a few tips from a pair of local professionals — Melissa McGhee, of Melissa McGhee Photography and Jessica Thomas, of Scott E. Thomas and Daughter Photography — for snapping your best possible pic.

General Tips

Tripods are always a good idea,” Thomas said. “Shooting fireworks is hard enough, but a good first step is to make sure your camera is as stationary as possible.
— Jessica Thomas
  • Safety First. Make sure you're a safe distance from all fireworks. Photography injuries don't make for great stories.
  • Whenever possible use a tripod. 
  • Make your photos more interesting by adding a human element, rather than just shots of the fireworks alone. Try framing some images with the backs of your kids or friends enjoying the show to make a nice silhouette in front of the fireworks. Stay low and tilt your phone or camera up slightly to get both people and fireworks in the photo. (This is also a great tip for video!)
  • Try to get most of your shots at the beginning of the fireworks display before the smoke starts to linger.

Smart phones

  • Turn off the flash and HDR settings.
  • Don't zoom. Zooming in degrades your image quality. 
  • They key to getting the nice "waterfall" effect of fireworks is a long exposure. There are apps for that! Just do a search for "slow shutter" or "long exposure" to find several apps that work for iPhones and Android phones. Practice before the actual fireworks show to become familiar with any app you plan to use! It will be difficult to get nice shots on auto mode alone.
  • Don't be afraid to edit your photos on your phone by cropping or adding filters- sometimes an Instagram filter can do wonders!

Manual cameras

 When photographing fireworks with a manual camera — it’s all about experimentation.
— Melissa McGhee

 

  • Start with a low ISO (100-400), exposures between one and three seconds, and a fairly narrow aperture (higher number). 
  • Fireworks will vary in brightness, the speed they burst outward, and the amount of time they last.

Both McGhee and Thomas urge amateur photographers to experiment and try new things. Thomas even added that because of the affordability and accessibility of digital equipment, her studio — and many others — now offer photography classes. For more information on either photographer or their studios, visit melissamcghee.com or scottethomasphoto.com.

Lee’s Summit CARES providing parenting classes and other resources for families

Lee’s Summit CARES providing parenting classes and other resources for families

Booms & Blooms at Powell Gardens

Booms & Blooms at Powell Gardens