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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | Art Talk | April 2009 

Photo Tip of the Week: Learning How To Photograph Fireworks
email this pageprint this pageemail usLarry and Linda Bennett - PVNN

The 11th International Fireworks Art Symposium will be held in Puerto Vallarta April 20-24, 2009. Photo Tips of the Week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. To view more of his work, visit
With the 11th Annual Fireworks Symposium taking place April 20th through the 24th in beautiful Puerto Vallarta, I thought this week would be a great time to talk about photographing fireworks. Everyone loves the rush of the whump, boom, and bang of fireworks, while others like to snuggle up on the beach with their significant other and a bottle of their favorite wine to make it a romantic evening that one will not forget.

I, however, plan on being in the middle of this once in a lifetime experience with three cameras on three tripods with three different lenses. Seeing me juggle three cameras will be a separate and very entertaining show, that Iím sure.

This week's topic is going to be a two week series, so letís get started so you can be on your way to shooting some fabulous firework images after reading these articles.

Location, Location, Location

What kind of images do you want? Before we can talk about location, you must make some decisions about the type of images you are seeking. Do you want your images to capture distant fireworks reflecting on the Bay of Banderas? Do you want your images to capture the fireworks high above the city with views of beautiful Puerto Vallarta in the foreground (or background)? Do you want to be up close to the action and shoot with a wide angle lens?

There are many different kind of images you can capture, so you need to decide well in advance and create your shots prior to the event. Once you have decided what type of images you will be capturing, you will need to spend some time searching for that perfect spot that will be necessary for you to capture these images.

According to the schedule that I have seen, there will be several evenings of fireworks so plan a different location for every evening. My plans are just that, one night I will be perched on a roof top overlooking Vallarta, one night I will be on the beach, and one or two nights will be spent in the trenches shooting upward with a wide angle lenses.

This is the time to be creative! Create some fun images using a palm tree or an old building in your foreground (or background), move around and shoot the fireworks so there is a couple holding hands looking up into the sky. I love photographing silhouettes with fireworks in the background. BE CREATIVE, this is the heart and soul of photography; remember, there are NO RULES to follow, get silly, get creative and most of all, HAVE FUN!


Whether you are using a point and shoot or a DSLR, you MUST have a tripod - Case Closed! I know you are probably thinking that you have shot images of fireworks before and never used a tripod and your images turned out okay. Frankly speaking, Iím happy for you because in all of my years of experiences, I have never been able to hand hold a camera for longer than a split second without a shake therefore causing a blurred image. So in my opinion, a tripod is the single most important item you can have to shoot images of fireworks.

Settings, Shutter Speed and Aperture

The setting I am about to recommend will be the same for both DSLR users and point and shoot users. ISO is a good place to start. Letís keep this simple and put our ISO at 100 or 50 (if you have it.) Trust me on this. Keep reading and you will see where Iím going with this recommendation and if you donít agree with me at the end of this article, then you can raise your ISO.

Using an ISO of 100 or lower is going to give you the best colors. One of the many things I love about fireworks is seeing the beautiful variety of colors dancing across the sky. Let your cameraís processor do the best possible work for you, by using a low ISO.

To our point and shoot friends there are several point and shoots that have a B or bulb setting. To our DSLR users, all DSLRís have a B or bulb setting. To find this setting you might have to first go to M or manual mode. If all else fails, you might have to read your manual to find it.

Some of the newer point and shoots do have a fireworks mode, this is a cool thing. Use that setting if you have it and if you do not have that setting use the B, or bulb setting. If you canít find B or bulb and still refuse to read your cameras manual, itís in the M or manual mode, all the way at the top of the dial. Bulb is a very simple setting, button down, button up and whatís between is up to you. Sorry, I can see smoke coming out of your ears on this one.

Using the B or bulb setting will allow you to keep your shutter open and it will stay open (for one second or twelve hours) until you release it by releasing your shutter button. The sky is the limit here and yes, there are some images that take eight to twelve hours to compose and if you havenít had the opportunity to see any of these images, they are very cool and unique sky images.

If you have a cable or remote shutter release it does make taking fireworks images a little easier to shoot, and is the preferred way to shoot fireworks. There is no problem if you donít have a cable or remote shutter release, just be especially careful not to bump, jiggle, or move your camera/tripod.

A typical fireworks image for me can last for 3 seconds or for up to 8 seconds; the length of exposure is a field call only you can make, remember you need to adjust the length of the exposure for your image based on the pace of the fireworks display and for the number of fireworks bursts you want to capture in one image.

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Photo Tips of the week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. These tips are to be just tips, refer to your cameras owner's manual for specifics on your camera. Readers are welcome to enjoy Larry's website at

Click HERE for more Photo Tips from Larry Bennett

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