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Everything is RED, WHITE, AND BLUE as we celebrate the 4th of July!  We found these gorgeous shots on Pinterest, and hope they give you some inspiration for your holiday!

10003958_871253339555393_7965648431273523652_n {Rena Durham Photography}

7fcd13ecbe4202234839ac5f7483069a {Rena Durham Photography}

38efbd91595c277b58cfef328e8154de {Portraits by S&S}

a3a9a266ca42b5aa48f9ad8bee63627e {pink sugar photography}

a652fb439d6477b401cc0aa5ad066dde {CJK Visuals}

aaddaa67e479d0be1dc59d3bb3196136 {Damion Hamilton Photography}

e1db8888c9fbd662caae68f9fa508724 {source unknown}


{Michelle Morris Photography}




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Guest Contributor | Nick Kelsh 

Chic Critique is absolutely thrilled (and giddy!) to have Nick Kelsh on the blog again today with the second part of his photographing fireworks series!  Nick is a nationally known photographer and instructor.  His passion for teaching and helping others, knack for creatively delivering photography tips in easily digestible bites, and inspiring, entertaining style has earned him the following of thousands on his How To Photograph Your Life website, How To Photograph Your Baby Facebook page and popular Basic Photography Course.  Enjoy this two part series and let’s see some of your amazing fireworks shots in the Forum and on Facebook!


One of the most popular features I’ve ever written for any of our sites were my tips to how to photograph fireworks. Here’s a link to that blog. The information that’s there is solid and you can proceed with confidence if you follow it. In those instructions you set all of your settings manually. It’s a great way to get comfortable with your camera and it’s a great way to take some wonderful fireworks pictures. Many people have.


{The Fireworks Function sets the f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO automatically for you. AND It focuses the camera on infinity. On this Samsung camera the settings are F8, three seconds, and ISO 100— almost identical to the recommendations in my previous blog. You can’t go wrong with these settings.}


But many of you now own cameras that have a built-in Fireworks Function. You will generally find it in there with some of the other special functions the manufacturers refer to as “Smart”. Some of them are and some of them are just cheesy. But my experience with the fireworks function has been quite impressive.

When you put your camera on the Fireworks Function it sets your f-stop (usually F8), it sets your shutter speed ( somewhere between two and four seconds), and it sets your ISO (usually ISO 100). Those settings are right on the money with what I recommended in my previous blog.

I have two cameras with the Fireworks Function. Both of them recommend F8 and ISO 100 just like I did. One of them sets your camera for a shutter speed of three seconds and one of them sets your camera for a shutter speed of four seconds. I had recommended using a shutter speed of two seconds. Why the discrepancy you might logically ask?

The answer is simple. Everyone is guessing. There’s a whole lot of guesswork going on when you photograph fireworks. The brightness of the fireworks varies over the course of any fireworks display so there’s really no correct shutter speed. If you use two seconds or three seconds or four seconds you are going to be right in the ballpark

The difference between two seconds and four seconds (as my Going Manual students will tell you) is only one F stop. The difference between two seconds and three seconds is one half f-stop. That’s really not much. Close to nothing, by the way, when you’re photographing fireworks. You would hardly be able to tell the difference.

If there are buildings that are lit up or there’s anything else in the photograph with the fireworks that’s important to you you could very well do better by just sticking to setting the camera yourself so you can adjust the exposure for what ever is most important to you.

If you don’t feel like thinking too much you can’t go too far wrong by using the Fireworks Function. The Fireworks Function will do a fine job of exposing for the fireworks themselves. That’s important.

In another regard, the Fireworks Function is superior—at least on some cameras. On some cameras, when you are on the Fireworks Function the camera focuses itself on infinity. In other words, that’s one less thing for you to worry about. When you are shooting manually, like I described in my previous blog, YOU need to focus your camera and that can get a little futsy out there in the dark.


{You can learn a lot from a dry run with kids and sparklers. Remember, if the kids are close to you you are going to have to manually focus your camera— that means you will not be able to use the Fireworks function. Whatever it takes, though, it’s worth it. It’s entirely possible you will take a picture the night before the big fireworks display that you like better than anything from the display itself.}


Whatever you do, I absolutely guarantee that there is a huge benefit to doing a dry run the night before the fireworks display. If you can find a kid to wave some sparklers around for you you will absolutely learn something about your camera and your ability to operate your camera in the dark. It will probably not be all good news. But you can certainly deal with it. Don’t forget, if you use the Fireworks Function the camera will be focusing on infinity – probably – so the kid should be standing quite a distance away to check your focus. If the kid is standing 10 feet away when you’re using the Fireworks Function all the pictures will be out of focus. You would need to switch to manual settings – both exposure and focus – if you want to focus a kid waving sparklers close-up.

If you don’t have a kid and some sparklers handy, you can learn a lot simply by photographing traffic off in the distance (fireworks, after all, are far away). Confirm that your camera is focusing on infinity if you use the Fireworks Function. If not, get as comfortable as you can with the manual focus on your camera and make sure that you know how to operate it in the dark. Notice that I keep mentioning that it’s going to be dark outside. The significance of that cannot be overstated.

Finally, the benefit of using a tripod when photographing fireworks goes for anyone regardless of how they are setting their camera – manually or automatically. Once again, there is simply no substitute for a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod or an adequate way to stabilize your camera for what in the photography world is a very long time – three or four seconds – then sit on the ground, rest your elbows on your knees, and do your best to become a human tripod.

Take a deep breath, exhale, relax your entire body, and when you push the button don’t move anything but your shutter finger. I used to tell people to take a breath, hold it, and THEN push the shutter button, but a Marine shooting instructor overheard me giving those instructions and corrected me. You want to take a breath, exhale, and relax your body. Then push the button. It makes sense.

And remember, with fireworks as with life itself, it’s safety first and photography last.

Screen-Shot-2012-03-22-at-4.23.48-PM Nick Kelsh is a renowned photographer and author of nine books, including the bestselling Naked Babies and Siblings (co-authored with Pulitzer Prizewinning writer, Anna Quindlen) and three how-to books for amateurs, How to Photograph Your Baby, How to Photograph Your Family and How to Photograph Your Life. He illustrated a new edition of Rachel Carson’s classic The Sense of Wonder, and wrote and photographed two gift books: How to be Santa Claus and How to be Dad. He wrote the column Great Shots for Creative Memories’ Lasting Moments magazine. He has appeared twice on Oprah and three times on The Today Show, as well as being featured on many local TV and radio shows and numerous national newspaper and magazines including Time, Life, Newsweek, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Forbes, Fortune and Business Week.

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