Fireworks are a delight to young and old. They evoke a lot of emotion for people as they typically celebrate momentous occasions. According to Wikipedia, they have been around a very long time dating back to 7th century China. It’s no wonder something this beloved has been documented since its origins.
Here are 5 easy steps to get you started on photographing fireworks.
1. Use a Tripod
This is one of the most important features. The key to photographing fireworks is long exposures which means, you will need to keep the camera still while releasing the shutter. Don’t have a tripod? Improvise and put your camera on top of a stable, hard surface such as the top of your cooler or on your vehicle. Remember, you are trying to capture the trails and the movement of the fireworks not the movement of the camera.
2. Turn Your Flash Off
Fireworks are usually fired off meters away from the public to ensure safety. Your flash on your camera will not reach the fireworks. Most on camera flashes only have a reach of a few feet. Turn the Flash off.
3. Manual Mode
Photographing fireworks is a lot of experimentation and trial by error. In order to tweak and get the best results, you’ll need to put your camera on Manual mode. You need to do the thinking for the camera. So where do you start with manual? Well, let’s start with the lowest ISO you can, 100 is ideal. You want a low ISO to have a clean shot. Next your aperture. Generally, you can go from f8 to above and experiment with how wide you want your lens opening. Personally, I stick between F14 and F16. This seems to give me the results I am looking for. Next is shutter speed. This is the tricky part but also the most fun to experiment. I usually start on the “bulb” feature so I can control the trails and look. If you are not comfortable with the “bulb” setting, then try a setting of 30 seconds to begin. You can then adust shutter speed depending on your results and your tastes. It’s ok to chimp and adjust on fireworks shots!
4. Manual Focus
Setting up your shot is important. Remember, you have it on a tripod, trying to change its position after every explosion, will not work. Let a few fireworks go off so you can get a sense of their location in the sky. Next, put your focus on manual mode and set your focus point to those few bursts. This works best as it is hard for most cameras to focus when it’s dark. You’ll need to tell your camera where to focus.
These are general guidelines. It’s ingredients to a recipe. You get to add or subtract how you see fit until you think it’s perfect. Don’t be afraid to use different lenses, change your shutter speed, try a double exposure. It can be fun and rewarding. Plus don’t forget, they happen every year so if your images didn’t turn out the way you had hoped, learn from your experimenting and try again for the next year.
HDR, or “High Dynamic Range” photography comes with a ton of opinions and critics. Basically you either really love HDR or you hate it. Over the past number of years it has become a very popular type of photography but also has a fairly poor reputation for being very unrealistic and extremely over done. I won’t lie, when I first started shooting them I made all the early mistakes most people usually do. Here a 5 tips to get you going in the right direction!
1. Less is More
The whole purpose of HDR photography is to bring out the details in shadows and highlights that your camera’s sensor can not do with one shot. The problem is you will see a lot of people going with 6+ images to merge together into one HDR photo. This brings out way too much detail and can sometimes flatten it out. You best bet is to try and merge 3 photos together with just a couple stops difference at the most. You have one neutral, one over exposed by a stop or two, and one under exposed by a stop or two. This will keep the image looking more realistic but at the same time give you that HDR look.
2. Shoot in RAW
If you aren’t already shooting RAW, you should be…even more so for HDR photography. With RAW files you are able to change the exposure of an image entirely in post processing. So you can get away with taking only 1 photo and adjusting the exposures in your photo editing program to give yourself the 3 different exposures you need. Doing it like this will keep issues like camera shake/movement and subject movement from happening and giving you a sharper image. It doesn’t work in all situations but it is absolutely a very handy way of getting a great HDR image.
3. Use a Tripod
If you are already familiar with shooting landscapes, even more so at night than you are likely already using a tripod. However, it is extremely important for creating photos that require multiple exposures. This allows you to take your 3 images while constantly having the same scene, horizons, subject, etc. When you bring your file into the HDR processing software (I personally used Photomatix) it gives you options for file alignment but to play it safe, always use a tripod. Also if you can, pick up a remote shutter or use the timer on the camera to reduce all camera shake for each image. Also quite handy (the remote) for long exposures!
4. Shoot at a low ISO
Shoot at low ISO, ideally 100. HDR processing introduces a lot of noise into your image so start with a lower ISO to minimize that problem. Every HDR image will have some noise, in post processing you can use certain tools and filters to help reduce noise.
5. Take it Easy with the Sliders
When I say sliders I mean the adjustment sliders in the HDR program you use such as Photomatix. Putting too much into strength, saturation, etc. can result in just a very ugly over done image. You create “halos” around subjects. If it looks over done to your eyes, it likely is. Bring that strength slider down. Also Photomatix is not the end of the editing process, take it from there into Photoshop or Lightroom to make final touches but editing is another topic all together!
Thanks to guest blogger Matthew Pugliese. Matt started shooting back in 2009 as a hobby with a Canon Rebel. His main area for photography has always been the urban landscape of New York City. He has been shooting HDR for about 3 years now. What started as a hobby, has now turned into a way of life for him. You can view more of his amazing work on his website and flickr account.
Congratulations to Your Best Shot 2012 winner Alejandro Santiago from Canada. His image made it through four rounds of judging by professionals and Adoramapix members to take home the top spot of Your Best Shot 2012. His photograph on that foggy February morning is the epitome’ of amazing street photography.
It’s summer and that means it’s time to travel! With vacations and adventures awaiting you this summer, it’s important to document your travels. There are a few techniques you should keep in mind when packing your suitcase and your camera. We talked with Tracey Heppner of Follow Your Heart Photography Tours to get 5 key tips on successful travel photography.
1. Pack the Right Items
Pack only what you need and what you want to carry. Remember, you probably aren’t going to have help during your travels carrying around your stuff, so less is more!
When I travel, I travel with one main body (Canon 5dm2), a second body (Canon 5d) that I use for backup (or if I’m in a place I don’t want to keep changing lenses I put one on it), a long lens (70-200, 4.0) a wide (16-35, 2.8) and a 50mm, 1.2 mid range lens. Why do I choose those lenses? Well for one, I don’t own a 28-70 anymore. So instead, I bring the wide for scenery and buildings, the long for distance. I use the long for when I like to stay back and document life and the 50mm for great portraits when I really to embrace the culture and its people.
I also pack more than enough memory cards and my Macbook pro with a pocket size hard drive. I have my files copied 3 times. I do it because I like to know that if my laptop got stolen, I still have my hard drive and cards. Or if my hard drive corrupts, I still have my cards and laptop. I cover my bases.
I carry this all in my Lowepro computrekker backpack. It’s compact and it’s in all there. My batteries and chargers fit wonderfully as well as my laptop. It’s the perfect travel bag when I want to be compact. My backpack has traveled everywhere with me – throughout the USA and Canada, all over Italy, Turkey and Germany, and to many islands of the Philippines.
Good shoes are important too! The amount of walking you will do, you want to make sure you have great soles on your feet. Also, don’t forget travel insurance. You always want to bring that, not only for yourself but to cover your gear if anything were to happen.
Study where you are going and be sure to go off the beaten track . When I am on the ground wherever I am traveling, I like to have a good idea of what I want to see and do and leave the rest for wandering and going with the flow.
For example, my first visit to Venice, Italy, I knew I wanted to see San Marco square. I found it on a map, photographed it and then ventured through the back streets. I found more jewels and gems by going off the beaten track than I could have ever imagined.
Each place has its own iconic shots that I want to get. I make notes in a little note pad that I stuff in my bag so I won’t forget. I love lists, so this works well for me. When you shoot these iconic places, try and get different angles and shoot it from a different point of view than what is normally “typical”. You could come up with one of your favorite “postcards” from that city by looking at it in a new light.
I also research the areas and places to see if there are special events and cultural things that are going on that I will be able to photographed and really make my experience in these amazing places unforgettable.
3. Photograph Passionately
Shoot it like you’re never going to shoot there again. I always have in my mind when I’m shooting in different places abroad, “If I don’t ever make it back here again, I want to make sure I have all I can get from my shots.” That sounds like a big order to fill, but if you really document and be journalistic in your approach, it pays off. Try telling a story through some of your photos so that when you get back home you have these images full of life and meaning behind them and you will LOVE them for years to come.
I did this when I was at Oktoberfest in Munich one year; I didn’t know if I would ever be back here. So I put on my 50mm and my wide and away I went, getting in the faces of beer-drinking tourists and locals inside the big beer garden tents and yet capturing the massiveness of these with my wide. I haven’t been back to Munich or Oktoberfest, yet, but I am really happy with how I captured my time there. I didn’t miss anything.
4. Be Friendly
A smile goes a long way. Not only does it allow you to engage the locals and what’s going on around you when you travel, it also allows you to ask permission to take their photo for a portrait.
I have experienced this time and time again. Once in Chinatown in Manila, Philippines I was walking down the street and saw this most adorable old Chinese man vegetable vendor. I knew there was a portrait to be had there. So I started up conversation and we chatted some, I looked at his beautiful vegetables. And then I popped the question: “Picture? You?” At first his smiled and said, “No, no!”. I looked at him with a smile and said, “just one.” And he obliged. One of my favorite photos.
Another time I was in Nagercoil, India, I saw these two beautiful Indian women. They had little English, I smiled lots and played with a baby that another girl had beside them and began shooting photos of the baby. Then I looked at them and said, “Picture?” And their first shot was no smiles. I then smiled at them and encouraged some smiles. Bingo. Another favorite street portrait of mine.
5. Write it Down
Trust me on this one – at the very least, write down the places you stayed at along the way and if you can, make some notes about your day. I have a little “travels” book I bring with me to write the date, place, accommodations, companions and highlights in. I have kept it since 2007 and it is fun to look back and remember.
Facebook and blogs have made documenting our travels and lives so much easier than even 10 years ago. I recommend photographers to blog about their travels. If you have Internet access while traveling, blog one photo a day and write a bit of what you did. Not only will everyone who follows it have something to look forward to, it will help you to remember what you did. You can always do more in-depth posts when you get home.
When I visited Germany & Italy for the first time, I did this – I blogged a little bit each day. My family and friends were able to follow along in my adventure while I was gone. It made it more “real” for them to see a photo or two and a story behind it.
My blog is filled with images and stories, both past and present, meaning there are still photos I haven’t blogged about and written about from years ago that I decide to blog about years after.
When you write about your travels after the fact, you can relive your adventures…it’s like you are there again! But warning – it will also awaken your wanderlust and you will probably in no time be planning your next trip!
Summer is upon us and that means it is a great time to capture lasting memories. Whether you are traveling far for your summer vacation or planning a ‘staycation’ with activities near home there are lots of ways to capture the moment. You don’t need to have an expensive DSLR camera to take great vacation photos. Nowadays your smart phone or point-and-shoot camera can take stunning high-resolution photos.
Far too often we take multiple photos but never print them. This year make it a point to learn how to take great vacation photos. All it takes is a little bit of planning with a purpose to consciously frame the image before you shoot. Before you know it you will have many wonderful moments captured in photos to create your own coffee table vacation album.
Tell a story: When you start your day plan it as if you are telling a story. From the moment you wake up and get your first cup of coffee at the corner café to the moment your head hits the pillow, take shots of the sights around you to remember those fleeting memories.
Don’t forget the details: You may not think details matter but when you recall your vacation it is often the little details that trigger the best memories. What you ate, what the people around you wore, street signs, food, menus, maps, store signs, hotel room numbers, the view from your hotel, all of these seemingly small details complete your vacation story.
Zoom in: One of the most common mistakes people make when taking photos is having too much background and not enough focus on the people. Experiment and try zooming in more than you have in the past to see their facial expression or capture what the person is doing with their hands. If you stumble upon someone making a craft, wrapping up a purchase, or handing you your coffee, snap that photo and capture a memory.
Landscapes: In order to capture the beauty and spirit of your location, this is when you take landscape photos. Of course, people can be in the image but this is when the focus is on the place. When you try to capture the people and the landscape at the same time you may miss getting a good photo of either. For great landscape images be sure to set your aperture between f/8 to f/16. For your smartphone or point-and-shoot choose the landscape setting for the best clarity to capture the horizon, mountains, and foreground.
Turn the flash off: People are often surprised that turning their flash off results in better images than when it is on. This isn’t always the case but these days so many smartphones and point-and-shoot cameras have such high ISOs that even in a dimly lit area the photos capture the mood and lighting better than when a flash is used. Take some test shots with and without the flash. Then determine which photo you prefer. And remember, when taking photos at sunset it is best to turn off the flash.
Iconic shots with a twist: When traveling to places where there are famous landmarks such as the Statue of Liberty, Sydney Opera House or the Golden Gate Bridge try taking it from another perspective. Using the Golden Gate Bridge as an example a hummingbird came into view which became the focus of the photo and the bridge was blurred. When viewed from a different perspective you capture details that show you were standing right next to a landmark and not from a guided bus tour.
Get In the Picture: Too often we forget to get in the photo ourselves. Be sure to get in a few photos even if it means using the self-timer or holding your camera at arms length. When you include even a tiny piece of the location you will be able to prove you were there.
Use a photo editor: Even the best photographers use editing tools. There are several free tools that help brighten, straighten, crop and adjust the colors in your photos. Popular apps such as Instagram also include a variety of filters that create different moods to your photos. Don’t be afraid to check them out. What might have been an otherwise ordinary image can be altered with a photo-editing tool. Free editing tools including Aviary, Picasa, and Microsoft Photo Gallery.
With just a little bit of practice you will be taking stunning photos that capture once-in-a-lifetime memories.
Be sure to check out Adoramapix and create a wonderful keepsake photo book of your summer vacation. The pages are printed on beautiful photographic silver-halide paper with a lustre finish. All Adorampix photo books use real archival quality photo paper for vivid fade-resistant colors and brilliant whites.
Tina Case an Adoramapix Ambassador and is a writer and photographer out of the San Francisco Bay area. She writes co-writes for the photography blog Moms Who Click where she shares photographer tips, tricks and interviews. Tina shares her parenting stories and more on Yahoo! where she is a featured “Parenting Guru.” Check more of her photos at Tina Case Photography, on Facebook and Instagram.