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To take great shots of fireworks, you've got to be versed on a few things. With these short tips, learn how to select the right Scene Mode in your camera, how to adjust your camera's manual functions, or how to steady yourself for nighttime photos and create light trail effects.
Setting the scene for fireworks
Summer is known for great fireworks displays. Olympus is known for great camera scene modes. Coincidence? No way. Your first step in taking great pictures of fireworks is to simply select the Fireworks Scene Mode. The camera will then slow the shutter speed value and set the focusing point to infinity (∞).
If your camera doesn't have scene modes (i.e. the E-1, E-3 & E-5) or is able to support a high-level of manual control, set the camera to manual mode (M) and adjust the shutter speed and aperture. Setting the aperture to F8 and a shutter speed of 3 to 4 seconds should give good results. Set the ISO sensitivity to 100 or 80. And don't forget to change to MF (manual focus) and set the focusing point to infinity (∞).Here's a rundown of common adjustments
made in the Fireworks Scene Mode:
- Shutter speed is set to four seconds, which helps capture the streaming trails of the fireworks.
- Sets the ISO to 100 and the f-stop to f11.
- Sets the White Balance to 5300K
- Sets the exposure compensation to -1.0 EV. This is a full 1-stop underexposure to keep the firework highlights from burning out.
- Sets the color to Vivid, the Saturation to High and the Contrast to Hard, all of these changes help enhance color.
- Sets the Sharpness to Soft, which uses minimal sharpening in anticipation of post-processing.
Experiment with your camera's Night Scene+Portrait mode to capture amazing photos of light trails. This Scene Mode will fire a flash to illuminate your subject - but it will also keep the shutter open long enough to capture a light trail.
Using your camera's special flash modes can give you even more control over this effect. For more information, view this page.
Have an E-M5, E-P5, E-PL2 or E-PM2? You can see the progress of your exposure during shooting. To view, choose a display interval for [Live BULB] or [Live TIME]. This makes it easier to choose when to end the exposure. If [Live TIME] is selected, the display can be refreshed by pressing the shutter button halfway during time photography.
Watch our Light Painting edition of Anywhere Classroom to learn more about Light Painting with sparklers.
More picture-taking tips for fireworks
- If possible, try to shoot the fireworks so that they are downwind from your position. If you are downwind of the fireworks, you may lose visibility because of the smoke.
- It's a good idea to have a penlight handy in case you need to replace the memory card or battery in the dark.
- Try using your camera's self timer to eliminate camera shake when manually pressing the shutter button. Using a remote shutter release can also help you avoid camera shake and blur.
Timing your shutter speed
The traditional method for shooting fireworks is to manually select shutter speed. As you might expect, longer exposure times result in longer trails and shorter exposures result in shorter trails. You can set your shutter speed to a specific duration - you can experiment with 2 seconds, 3 seconds or 4 seconds to see what happens. The key is to time the exposure with the timing of the fireworks streaks so you end up with dramatic light trails in your shots.
The alternative is to set the shutter speed to the BULB setting, if your camera is equipped with this feature. In the BULB setting, the shutter will stay open as long you have the button engaged, and will shut when you release the button.
Have a compact camera? Check out these basic tips on shooting fireworks photos and movies.