Happy Wednesday, friends!
If you want to know how to photograph fireworks at a wedding, today’s post is for you! As a wedding photographer, certain parts of the day aren’t super stressful, because they’re predictable. You do them at every wedding. You can practice them at home. Like ring shots, for example. Here’s a post on how to nail those if you’re curious. The stressful parts of a wedding day are the wildcards, the things you a) don’t do very often, and therefore b) can’t practice in advance. It’s literally on-the-job training.
Other than those two factors, here’s what makes firework shots on a wedding day challenging:
1. You don’t always know what directions the fireworks are coming from until they start going off.
2. You don’t know if they’re going to be far off in the distance or right over the bride and groom’s head.
3. It’s dark. Thus, focusing can be tough.
4. You need off-camera flash, and that’s scary for a lot of newer photographers. We totally get it, by the way. That was us, too!
5. Time. Is. Limited. You only have a few minutes and there are no re-dos.
So, to be as helpful as possible, we’re going to tell you exactly how we do firework shots at weddings. That way, the next time you see the “f” word on a wedding day timeline, you’ll know exactly what to do!
If we know that fireworks are happening at 9:30 p.m., we’ll sneak out of the ballroom five minutes early with our bride and groom. Why? For a few reasons. One, we like to get them away from where all the people are going to be standing, because to nail the shot, we need just them and the fireworks in the picture, not guests. Plus, since we don’t know where the fireworks will be coming from, having a WIDE perimeter around them is necessary in case we need to turn them in a different direction. Second, it gives us a chance to test our settings and give them posing instructions before it gets too loud and chaotic.
For gear, we bring a few things with us. First, we like our Canon 24-70mm lens, because we don’t have time to change lenses once the fireworks get going, and this allows us to stay in one place once we start shooting, just zooming in and out to get what we want. Second, we have a Canon 600 Ex-Rt Speedlite on-camera controlling another Canon Ex-Rt Speedlite off-camera. The on-camera flash is on, but we don’t have the flash firing. It’s just to control the off-camera flash. Amy holds the off-camera flash inside a 24×24 soft box. It doesn’t have to be fancy. We use this Lastolite one that we bought our first year in business, and it totally does the trick.
Since your couple is out there with you a few minutes early, you can test your settings on them to make sure your exposure is just right. That way, once the fireworks begin, all of you have to worry about is your focus and composition. For our camera settings, we’re thinking about a few things. First, we want to keep our ISO somewhat high so that we can keep our flash power low. Why?
The slower the shutter, the more the fireworks will streak
Once you’ve dialed in your exposure, you have to know where you’re going to be and what your couple is going to do. In our experience, fireworks usually fire so high that we have to be on our back a few feet directly behind the couple at 24 – 35mm to get them and the full fireworks in the shot. Quick Tip: Shoot portrait not landscape.
Shoot portrait not landscape
Once the fireworks start, you basically have three things you need to do — and your assistant has one things to do. For your assistant, ask them to stand about 45 degrees from the couple and hold the soft box at chest height. a light stand will work as well, but it helps to have someone manning the light.
9 times out of 10, the best images will come from the grande finale
Phew! That was a lot of information, friends! Thanks for sticking with us until the end, and good luck the next time you see the “f word” on a wedding day timeline. We’ll be cheering for you!
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