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Fireworks at wedding question

edited July 2012 in wedding photography
Hello all!
A client recently contacted us to inform that there will be a fireworks display at dusk and they would like to have a posed picture of it. Really, we cant blame them for wanting it, after all the fireworks will be shot out over the ocean while they stand on the beach... All in all, it would make a great shot and needless to say I want to get this one right(the first time)!
So, anyone out there have ideas or thoughts on how to nail this correctly the first time? The B&G will be on the beach posed, as the fireworks display fires off behind/above them over the ocean. It will be at 10:00pm July14Th, so there will be some ambient light left. We are Seattle based. Gear will include a 5D Mark II with a canon 24-70L, two 580EX II speedlites..... My thought was to shoot wide open, from a tripod, wireless shutter release, set to BULB. Speedlite (#2) will be positioned behind the B&G for a rimlight effect while speedlite (#1) will be off camera, eye level with B&G. The idea would be to rimlight the B&G and light them up from the front with off-camera flash while using a wide aperture to blur the fireworks display. Any ideas or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!!!!



  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited July 2012
    If you are going to use bulb, you will need to be sure of timing.

    The set up you describe is somewhat complex, and that's fine if you have time, otherwise it will be all over and you are still juggling flash exposures.

    I had one recently [actually only 5 days ago] but the fireworks lasted a full 2 minutes, no time to play around.

    Also the area I had to shoot in was approx only 5 meters square and with around 30 guests jammed in very awkward.

    I had two problems.

    1] I had to shoot a 'Chinese lantern' ceremony first, facing one way, then almost immediately and I mean virtually immediately the fireworks were on but BG had to move and face the sea, soooo, no time to juggle. Luckily I knew this in advance and I planned a course of action.

    2] The size of area I mentioned also problem along with fireworks exploding virtually only meters from the crowd along 'rows', so was not able to use a 'static' tripod/camera cable release scenario, I was needing to be moving [as in swiveling camera] during capture.

    I decided to use NO Flash, since people so close and fireworks also very close, did not want to light up unwanted people and kill the mood when shooting and also not be blinding people who were side on to me.

    I then decided to use my Video Light, [Lowell ID full 100W tungsten bulb, with barn doors to help contain spill] and shot around the Daylight WB range [5500 Nikon] and did not worry about the couple's WB gave them 'ambient mood' lighting. btw, they loved this teaser shot I sent them.

    Edit: Forgot, it was also light drizzling rain, and I was very concerned with my video light frazzling, had no umbrella, but luckily it held up with wife holding her hand over the head of the light.

    Camera on tripod, but I also used a ball head, swiveling around since the fireworks were not in the same place, they moved around as in spraying along a line. Once again I knew this so was prepared.

    So, Video Light, Daylight WB, tripod on ball head to swivel around & camera settings were:

    1/50th f3.5 ISO 2000 on 24-70mm f2.8 lens @ 24mm

    Shot below, I also did a little trick, duped the layer, then blend mode on Lighten which lets the brighter pixels in and removed a lot of 'smoke haze' but masked where I wanted to keep details. Have not had a chance to edit any others, just this one facing the fireworks.


    PS: I hope my experiences can help you out somewhat. Neil also had a tangents post on fireworks with a couple on a balcony he lit with flash, but it did not kill the mood since they were isolated from crowd and fireworks in background. Cannot find it at the moment.
  • TrevTrev Moderator
    I also would recommend that you meter around 1-2 stops below ambient, if using flash, since you want a quite dark background so the fireworks stand out.

    Make sure you flag the flashes so the light is relevant on the BG only, you don't want a lot of extraneous people/background in.

    If you have slight ambient and meter below and drop it, then flash, I would stick to the ISO 400 range, maybe 800, with an aperture of around f5.6-8.0 and shutter around the 1/4 or 1/8th, see what you get. At those settings, I guess the flashes would need to be really powered way down, so you should have plenty of ooomph in them for firing in quick succession without having to wait to recycle.

  • Brilliant shot Trev! Makes me want to incorporate fireworks into my stuff. Me thinks a setup that complex should probably be rehearsed at least once before the day.
  • RHMPRHMP Member
    Thanks Trev for the input and ideas! Love the firework shot, looks like you nailed it! Sounds like your situation at the wedding was pretty jammed up, yikes.

    A day after I posted my question I stumbled across Neil's post on "flash photography & Fireworks", great post for sure and I'll certainly take alot from it.

    I'll be fortunate in that the B&G will be alone on the beach as well as time to set up and go over my settings prior to the shot. This will be a huge advantage in that this will really be my first time with posing a B&G with timed fireworks. I originally was going to shoot in BULB, however I think since I'll have the time beforehand, I'll meter for ambient and shoot in manual and set my shutter speed/ISO/aperture as needed. I like your idea on using Video Light, buuuuuut on this one I think I'm gonna stick with the flash challenge.

    Just two days away, so I'll do a mock set up tonight..... :)

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited July 2012
    Let us know how it went.

    When you say meter for ambient, I would be inclined to make sure the background [ambient] is at least 1 stop under. You don't want a perfect background and then filling with light from fireworks, they will be over-exposed. You do need a dark-ish background to bring out the colors of the fireworks.

    Normally, I use a tripod obviously, shutter anywhere from 1/4 to 1 sec, around f5.6 to f8.0 and ISO 200-400 range, but because I knew I had to use a video light and the fireworks were not going to be the high exploding type, but 'shooting' streaks, I had to increase ISO and kept shutter around the 1/50th+ mark to reasonably keep BG sharp.

    Also there was literally no chance of me getting a 'test' prior to them going off, and certainly no chance of fiddling with my camera settings during, but it paid off the moment I took the very first image, looked quickly at LCD, zoomed in quickly on BG to see how sharp, then just kept shooting.

    For rest of you wanting to see that post by Neil, here is link, eventually found it.


    Good Luck.

  • RHMPRHMP Member
    Well I'm back to let you know it was a failed attempt....

    Prior in the day I went over everything with the BG and we had it planned out. I had about ten minutes before the fireworks kicked off to set up and go over everything. So, as the minutes counted down the BG were nowhere in sight. I basically grabbed a bridesmaid and had her hunt the BG down as I searched for them on my own. With a minute to go I turned back and made it to my camera, fireworks started and still no BG. They finally came running down to the designated area, I posed them and.....poof, the fireworks display was over.
    The venue did a great job of queuing me in on the area where the fireworks were set off from and that the lighting time was 9:15 sharp! It's really no fault of the BG, they were being yanked from every which direction, in looking back I should have realized the situation. It was a huge Italian family, much of them had flown in from the other side of the US, and we were swamped with family and friends wanting pictures together. I should have at least put someone in charge of the task of bringing them to the set up area.
    Hind sight is 20/20 I guess!
    In the end, regardless of the failed attempt, I learned a great deal of information out of this and it was awesome to hear you opinions and ideas and to see your picture Trev!

    So, since the firework display didnt work out, I'll leave you with a sparkler shot! Canon 5D with Lensbaby Composer/ Double-Glass optic...


  • TrevTrev Moderator
    Damn, what a waste of good fireworks. [At least your sparkler shot went off good]

    Man, I would have been very upset and yeah I know hindsight is 20-20 but the organiser should have at least given the BG a heads up five minutes to go. Wow! Cannot believe the big curtain raiser like fireworks went and you had to miss it through no fault of your own.

    Did you at least get some of the fireworks though, you can use those as an album background or even overlay some pics of them onto the fireworks and give it as a single print.

    If you did get some, would love to see them.

  • RHMPRHMP Member
    I was pretty upset, haha... Not at the BG, or the coordinator or anyone else. It was just my frustration with the situation, and only that. One of the bridesmaids walked over to me after the display ended and asked how it went, I think she could see the disappointment in my face! I said I missed the shot and asked for a moment to collect my thoughts, with a humbled smile on my face of course, haha. I kinda sat there for a moment in the sand on my knees and just replayed how it all went down. Thinking to myself, my quick conclusion was "Caca happens, then the wedding moves on, so grab your gear and go"...
    I think reality slapped me across the chops when I realized that sometimes in wedding photography, no matter how much we prep and study, we cannot always nail down those "quintessential moments".
    As for the fireworks I did get, they simply aren't post worthy. Unless you're wanting to see my partners picture from her balcony position of me below scrambling to quickly position the BG! Haha, I actually had to chuckle when I saw it! In actuality, she was rolling in laughter while I smirked at her new found amusement.... :)

    Fact is, failed attempts happen all the time, learn and move on! For me, the question is not: is it fair? The question is: how badly do you want it?

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