Daily Herald photographer George LeClaire offers his tips on shooting vivid, colorful fireworks photos with your compact digital camera.
Most compact and some SLR cameras have a fireworks scene selection that will automatically set them to achieve good technical results capturing colorful trails of light.
To select for fireworks, set the mode dial to scene and rotate the control dial until the fireworks scene selection appears on the screen. If your camera doesn't have a mode dial, the scene selections will be in the menu, and the setting can be accessed through the function control button.
The camera will automatically set the ISO to 100, set the shutter speed to a fixed two or four seconds and the aperture to about f8, turn the flash off and place the focus at infinity. Once you compose your picture, keep the camera completely still when you shoot.
The approach will work well during the finale of the show, but for most of it you may want a longer exposure.
One of the best controls to use with the fireworks setting is the exposure-compensation or under-and-over control, which increases exposure time, adding more fireworks and longer colorful trails to your picture.
To select this control or scale, push the button on the back of the camera labeled (+-) or push the cameras function control button and look for (+- ev) in menu. The control ranges from +2 to -2 and normally is in the center at 0.
To make your shot longer, move the compensation control to +1 or +2. This might also make the picture look lighter. The compensation control is normally used to control how light or dark your next pictures will be.
To avoid motion blur, the camera must remain perfectly still for several seconds while taking the picture. Many people suggest using a tripod, but they're difficult to use in large crowds. Instead, you can use anything that'll keep the camera steady, like the ground, a bench, box or even rolled-up blanket. This might even result in interesting images than using a tripod.
To avoid moving the camera, you can set the shutter release timer to two seconds or use a remote control if your camera has one.
Compact cameras may take up to 10 seconds to memorize a long exposure to the memory card. The camera's ready to shoot against after the image is displayed in the LCD. This requires some patience but is a good time to just enjoy the show.
Add personal flair: Typically, shooting fireworks vertically works best, but to create different images, try some horizontals. You can also a personal touch by including something in the foreground, like silhouettes of friends or kids playing. Also, look for reflections of the fireworks on water, car hoods or even metal trash cans, or frame the fireworks by shooting through something.
The fireworks setting can work to capture many other interesting pictures of nighttime moving lights, like Ferris wheels, car lights or even kids spinning a glowstick, flashlight, or rolled up ball of holiday lights.
Try shooting stationary night lights while spinning or rotating the camera around. If you're going to move the camera, move it a lot.
Also, record someone "painting with light" using a flashlight or glowstick. They could spell their name out or quickly draw a picture. This is a great fun project for kids with instant digital results.
Other setting for fireworks and night lights: Without a fireworks setting, you can use the landscape or night scene setting (moon or star icon without a person), though results are less dramatic. You may be able to adjust the ISO to the lowest setting or set the exposure compensation to +2 to increase the shutter time.
In the night scene portrait selection (moon or star icon with a person), you can photograph people against the backdrop of fireworks, theater lights, the evening sky or night scenes, and the flash will be directed at the person. The shutter speed and flash are lowered so the person and the background are evenly light.
Using an SLR: Most digital SLR cameras don't have a firework setting but you can still get great pictures and have more control over the exposure time. To shoot fireworks or any type of moving light, set the ISO to 100 and set the focus to infinity, or, if using a lot of zoom, manually focus or use the autofocus to lock in to the fireworks, then turn if off and then double check the focus a few times during the show. Rotate the main command dial to select a shutter speed of 2-30 seconds (2" to 30") and the sub-command dial to set the aperture to f8 or f11.
If your SLR has one command dial to rotate, select the shutter speed, then hold down a command button to select an f-stop setting with the same dial. To make the picture darker, use a higher-number f-stop (smaller aperture) or decrease the shutter speed. You can also use the bulb (B) setting as a shutter speed. It's one past 30 seconds and is used to take a picture for as long as shutter button is engaged.
The flash is normally disable in manual shooting mode. If you need to turn the flash off, push the lighting bolt symbol button until you see a crossed out lighting bolt in a circle on the LCD screen.
Send us your images: If you use the fireworks selection, please send us your pictures and we'll add them to our fireworks gallery. Include your name, town and where you shot your photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.
• For fireworks times and locations, click here.