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Article by guest blogger, Georgene Bender (South Central Regional Specialized 4-H Agent)

Photography by David Perkiewcz,, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Photography by David Perkiewcz,, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

Photography is a popular 4-H project and this time of year, it is fun to experiment taking pictures of fireworks and sparklers. With helpful tips you will be amazed at what you can do. Let’s review some basics. The word “photography” means drawing with light….so the key is the amount of light needed for these unique shots. Basically there are two camera types a) point & shoot and b) Digital Single-lens reflex. Each camera type has various features. It is good to familiarize yourself with them in the Menu or camera manual. What? You don’t have that book anymore. No problem – search for it online.

Focus on Infinity-  Set your focus to just less than infinity (or choose a landscape setting if you can’t manually adjust focus) and use an aperture of f/8 t- f/16.

Equipment- Be sure to take a small flashlight to adjust your settings in the night and a sturdy tripod – this is the best to reduce movement and blurred photos. Another great tool for the SDLR is the cable release cord that you can control the shutter’s button or the digital remote. Digital cameras will have a setting.

Bust Shooting- Also known as ‘continuous drive’ allows you to shoot multiple shots automatically. On a DSLR go to your menu and select Self-timer and you will see two options inside. A) Self-timer delay allows you to set time after how many seconds camera should take a shot and available values are 2s, 5s, 10s, and 20s. B) Number of shots you want to take in self-timer mode. You can choose between 1 and 9 shots.

Five Top Tips:

  1. Observe the wind direction from where you are. Pick a location upwind so that your photos do not turn out hazy.
  2. Pack extra batteries and memory cards- long exposures drain battery life, and you will need to shoot lots of pictures to get a few great shots.
  3. Watch for the fireworks as they travel and push and hold the release button.  (This will take time to practice – and also the bust shooting will help for better capture)
  4. Learn more online.  A couple of good sources include the Walt Disney World (WDW) Photography series. There are YouTube videos by Cory Disbrow from WDW and
  5. Practice playing with light before the fireworks by having friends ‘air write’ their name with the flashlight or sparklers. You, with your trusty tripod and camera settings shoot pictures. You will be amazed at what you get.

This chart below gives you the areas of each camera type to prepare before shooting.

SETTINGSMenu screen or, Bulb SHUTTERControls the open/close of light into camera ISOSensitivity of the light FLASHArtificial light APERTUREControls amount of light
Point and Shoot Manual(Check your manual as compact cameras have this as a menu optionLook for information on a delay release timer. Keep open for 10– 30 seconds; find your ‘night setting’ might be a half moon with starsThere is no B setting on Compact Cameras Lowest it will go OFF N/A
DSLR M = MANUALB= BULBTurn on noise reduction


Delay release setting

On B setting, you can hold the camera button for as long as you want10 – 60 sec then went you release the button the shutter will close out the light. 100 or lower OFF Changing the aperture is changing the f-stop.Set between f2.8 and f8 

The lower the f-stop the more light

Photo by Jill Wellington

Photo by Jill Wellington

Take lots of pictures this weekend– and please SHARE your best shot on our blog, Facebook, or Twitter!  To learn more about the 4-H Photography Project and Contests, visit If you have a passion for photography, consider serving as a 4-H photography project leader or becoming a sponsor of your local 4-H photography program. For more information, contact Heather Kent at

Credits to:

Fleenor, S., Asdtroth, K. and Peters, C. 2010. “Catch the Spark” University of Arizona Extension 4-H Youth Development.

“How to Take Multiple Shots in Self-Timer Mode.”

Harnocz, A. July 1, 2014 “How to Photography Fireworks” The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Whitney Cherry
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