Video Course Update - Sneak Peek :: Digital Photo Secrets

Video Course Update - Sneak Peek

by David Peterson 2 comments

As I'm sure you know by now, I'm releasing a brand new video course on 11th June here at Digital Photo Secrets. From my knowledge gained from teaching photography for over 7 years, I've been able to design the course with your photographic needs in mind.

In today's update, I've released a sneak peek of the fireworks video in the 'situations' section of the course. This section contains primers on common situations you will face when photographing, like fireworks, of children, light trails or weddings.

[ Update: My Course has been released]

Next week, I'll show you how you can jump to the front of the queue to take advantage of the course when it's released.


Hi again, it's David here from Digital Photo Secrets, with another update on the progress of my brand new video course to help you supercharge your photography skills and take some incredible images of anything you want.

The course will be released in less than 2 weeks - on the 11th June. And I can't wait to share it with you.

I've designed this photography course with your needs in mind. So as well as covering all the technical aspects of your camera like what shutter speeds to choose, and what aperture is all about, I've got a whole section on Situations.

When you want a quick 5 minute primer on taking wonderful photos for some common situations, check this section. You'll see helpful techniques for when you are out at Sporting events or Weddings, or want to take photos of Sunsets, Fireworks, Light trails or Children. They're short and to the point so you can take what you need and get going without having to wade through hours of video.

Here's a sneak peak at just one of these situation videos - taking photos of fireworks.

We'll be at T minus 4 days this time next week, and I'll let you know then how you can jump to the front of the queue for Digital Photo Secrets Video Course when it's released on June 11th.

Until then, I hope you enjoy this sneak peek.

Fireworks are fantastic to see in photos but are hard to shoot well. However, there are a number of techniques that can allow you to take some spectacular shots of fireworks.
Plan in advance. Make sure you have an unobstructed view of the fireworks by arriving well before the show begins. Find a place away from light sources like street lamps or car lights and where people won’t walk in front of you. Finally, make sure you’re upwind of the fireworks display. Fireworks create smoke that will obscure the explosions as the smoke moves towards you. On the other hand, smoke behind the explosions will reflect the light and make a better shot.

Slow Shutter Speed

Fireworks photography works best with a slow shutter speed like 1-15 seconds. Because of this long shutter speed, you don't need a high ISO, so set that to 100.

On your camera, use Shutter Priority mode so you can set a specific speed. If you do want to control the aperture too, set a medium aperture like F8. There's enough light coming from the fireworks that you don't need a wide open aperture.

If your camera doesn't have a shutter priority mode, look for the fireworks scene mode which will tell your camera to keep the shutter open for a lot longer than normal.

The idea is to capture both the initial explosion as well as the trails left behind by the burning particles. Anywhere from 1 second to 15 seconds will work. Try a few different options and use what’s best.

If you can’t control the shutter speed, take LOTS of shots. Use continuous mode to keep the camera shooting. Some of the shots won’t work, but you should get a number of good shots for the night.
It's essential to use a tripod for fireworks photography because of the long shutter speeds. A tripod will steady your camera so you'll avoid fireworks images with jagged streaks like here.

Manual Focus

Most of the time all fireworks will be the same distance and a fair way away from you. What I like to do is focus on a building or landmark that's around the same distance away as where the fireworks will be, like the pier here. Then I set my camera to manual focus so the camera will take all shots with that preset focus. If you have a point and shoot camera, the fireworks mode will do something similar.

Turn off the flash. You won't be needing the light from the flash for these photos. The fireworks have their own light that will be captured by the camera. Turning of flash also helps the camera to realise it's a night time shot, so it will keep the shutter open for longer.


There are a couple of options available to you when framing.

Try not to get buildings or lights in frame that will distract from the final shot. Unless you're around a famous landmark, like the Disney castle here. In this case, definitely include the landmark as it helps to give context to the fireworks show.

If you want full-framed shots, you could use a telephoto lens. Keep your tripod head loose and follow the tracer with your viewfinder. Press the shutter when the fireworks explodes making sure to keep the camera still while the shutter is open.

However, if your camera has over 6 megapixels, it's not necessary to so this. Instead, I zoom out enough to capture the whole scene and lock my tripod there. All I need to worry about then is pressing the shutter when I want to take a shot. The fireworks won't look as big in the frame, but I can crop the image later to highlight just the fireworks. Because I have so many megapixels in the image, the cropped photo will still look great.

Shoot vertically if you're zooming into just one firework. Alternatively, horizontal framing works better if you want to capture multiple bursts of fireworks in the one shot, of if you include other elements like city buildings.

Remote Shutter Release

Another tip is to use a remote shutter release if your camera supports it. This is a button on a lead that allows you to tell the camera to take the shot without moving the camera itself. If you use the shutter release on the camera, you can wobble the camera too much and produce unwanted effects. If you don’t have a cable release, you can use the timer function of the camera, but in my experience that makes it too hard to pre-empt a good firework so the shutter is open at the right time. So try this alternate method.

Set your camera to Bulb mode, which tells your camera to keep the shutter open for as long as you want it to. Or you can choose a really long shutter speed like 1 minute. Place some black cardboard over the lens of the camera, and open the shutter. Then when a firework is about to pop, remove the cardboard and let the camera see the firework. When it's over, quickly replace the cardboard.

You can then close the shutter, or keep it open and wait for the next firework. The two will then be on the same image.

If you use this method, remember the framing you set. You'll be mostly looking at the fireworks directly rather than through the lens, so remembering what part of the sky will be captured by the camera is useful for knowing when to remove the cardboard.

Other Angles

Remember to shoot more than just the fireworks. Turn the camera around and get some crowd reactions. If you time the shot right, you can use the light of the fireworks to illuminate their faces, and you won't need to use the flash.


Once you have your photos, you can easily merge the fireworks together using Image Editing software like Photoshop Elements. It’s a lot easier to produce an image with lots of fireworks if you take lots of images separately and merge them together afterwards on a computer. You can even move the fireworks around to make a more pleasing composition. The quickest way to merge firework images is to paste all fireworks images into different layers and use the “Screen” layer merge option.


To summarise: For your camera, set a low ISO like 100 and a long shutter speed between 1-15 seconds, or bulb mode. Choose Shutter Priority Mode or Fireworks Mode. Preset your focus and then switch to manual focus mode. Turn off the flash. Use a remote shutter and a tripod to minimize shake.

Plan in advance. Zoom out and crop the fireworks later. Remember where your camera is pointed so you'll know when to press the shutter. Get reactions from crowds. And finally, use Photoshop Elements to merge your fireworks images together.

Use some of these tips the next time your area has fireworks, and I'm sure you'll have some great photos to share.

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  1. Cecilia says:

    Thanks David. Your teaching video clips and articles are always so clear and easy to understand. I love the new look of your website too. Thanks for sharing so generously of your time and talents! I look forward to June 11th :)

  2. Olivia says:

    Thanks David! I will try to use them next time there are fireworks. They're such a hard subject to photograph!

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