It's almost July 4th, and Americans will be spending an estimated $209 million on their fireworks this year.
That's a lot of cash for some bright lights that disappear almost as fast as they appear, so how do you get your money's worth?
With a camera we mean.
Photographing fireworks takes some special knowledge, but it's not nearly as hard as it looks.
I've been shooting weddings, family portraits, newspaper photos, and of course my own kid for the past decade. Here are four tips to get great Fourth photos:
1. Put Your Camera Down. A tripod is preferable, but even a sturdy table or fencepost will do to keep your camera steady to take photos in the low light. You cannot hand-hold a camera for fireworks, so if you're not willing to put the camera down, don't even bother.
2. Turn Off Your Flash. The light from the fireworks themselves is all you need. The flash will actually blow out the beautiful sparkles in the sky.
3. Turn Off the Automatic Mode. Some cameras have a "fireworks" mode on them, and if you have that and are comfortable with that, stop reading now. If you're OK with a little more experimentation, turn it to manual mode and take a bunch of practice shots using a variety of the settings in #4.
4. Set the ISO, shutter speed, and aperture. The best ISO for this sort of thing is around 100 or 200. A longer shutter speed will help you capture the fireworks, so what you're looking for is a lower number on the bottom of the fraction that represents the shutter speed (you should see numbers like 1/1000 or 1/250 on your camera). And finally for aperture, you'll want to be somewhere between F8 and F16 to have enough light but not too much.
Will you be taking in some fireworks on the Fourth?
Image via Alpha Tango Bravo/Adam Baker/Flickr