A few months ago, I got to check one item off my photography bucket list - fireworks at a wedding! Fortunately, Brittany let me know a few weeks in advance that they would be ending the night with a fireworks show on the dock of the gorgeous waterside house they got married at in Charles City, so I had some time to prepare. I wanted to perfectly capture this moment for them, even if it is outside of my normal 'natural light' comfort zone.
To be honest, I would have been much more worried if I had not previously attended Justin & Mary's Lighting Intensive. One of the things they covered was fireworks, and the reason I signed up for the workshop was to best serve my brides on their wedding day, even if I was in a situation that made me a little nervous!
So you can see what went into getting the shot, here is a before picture of the scene:
As you can see, it was pitch dark. The only outdoor light came from a small bonfire and a few lights on the porch, but it wasn't nearly enough to light Josh and Brittany in the scene. Here's where it got fun!
Since I knew fireworks were coming, I packed a tripod in the car. Capturing a firework trail requires a long exposure, so I knew handheld wasn't an option. I started out with the basics - 8 second exposure, ISO 800, with an aperture of f/8 so each part of the scene was in focus. I also used a remote trigger to press the shutter so I didn't add camera shake by virtue of my finger bumping the camera.
I told Josh and Brittany to be a little patient, and had them stand next to each other and watch the fireworks for a few minutes. First, I focused on them by having Nathan light them with my cell phone. I switched to manual focus so my camera would not refocus while I got the shot. I triggered the shutter, then ran into the scene with an off-camera flash. Once I was close to the couple, I popped the flash 3-4 times, then ran out of the scene. I made sure I was lighting only the couple, and that none of the light spilled over on me. Here's the result:
So there it is! It seems a little scary to run into a picture and then back out, but with a long exposure and the right lighting, photographing fireworks is a piece of cake. Best of luck to you this year, and let me know if you have any questions!