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Shooting Tips

How to Capture Stunning Fireworks Portraits

By Pye Jirsa on July 3rd 2018

Happy Birthday, America!

4th of July is just around the corner, and with this holiday comes spectacular displays of explosions! I recently shot a wedding with a firework show, and I wanted to show you how I captured the best firework image with a simple composite trick. Check it out in the video and article below!

[REWIND: How I Got the Perfect Shot in 10 Seconds]

How to Capture Stunning Firework Portraits

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Camera Gear and Lighting

In this scene, I didn’t have much time; the fireworks show began and ended within 5-8 minutes and in that time, I had to place my couple, set up my lighting, get my shot, and still have time for them to enjoy the show. This is why I opted to use a constant light (Lowel GL-1 shooting through Wescott Umbrella) instead of a flash because it’s much quicker to set up. This also allows for the other photographers and videographers to get their shots as well.


Shooting For Composite

When I was shooting this shot, I kept in mind that I was shooting for a composite. Instead of focusing on getting everything decent in one shot, I was focusing on getting individual things perfect in separate images. So in one image I got the couple’s pose and expression perfect, and in the other images I was shooting for fireworks.


Editing in Lightroom

When we select the images we want to composite, we also want to develop them the same, so they blend easier in Photoshop. The trick here is to edit one image and synchronize your edit across the images. Keep in mind you will have to make slight exposure adjustments to individual photos because of the brightness discrepancies in between explosions.


Combining in Photoshop

Now that you’ve selected your images for the composite, you’re ready to combine them in Photoshop. The first thing you want to do after you get your images in is to select the “Lighten” blend mode. This blend mode enables the top layer to only show on the bottom layer areas that are brighter than the bottom layer. From here on out, we simply mask out the unwanted areas of the images and are left with our final result. For more clarification on Photoshop compositing, just jump to the 9-minute mark in the video.


Our Final Image and Conclusion


I hope you enjoyed how I shot and edited this image. Are there any other pictures you would like to know how to capture? Let me know in the comments!

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Kyle Stauffer

    I’ve been asked to capture a proposal during fireworks tomorrow – The pressure is on!!!

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    • Christopher Lin

      aw man! mixing two elements of timing seems like a fun/exciting/challenging experience .. good luck! If you feel like it, post your results in the comments when it’s done!

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      Thanks Christopher! Unfortunately, we had to bail on his idea due to thunder storms. He still wants me to capture his proposal whenever he figures something else out. I’ll post a photo when that happens! Thanks again!

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  2. Dylan Martin

    Do you have any other less expensive options that are comparable to the Lowel GL-1?

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  3. Shirantha Rajapakse

    Hi Pye i see ur using a diffuser for your flash do you use a diffuser as such on out door functions?

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    • Shivani Reddy

      For outdoor receptions he uses MagGrids and MagSpheres (grids to control the light and spheres to diffuse) 

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  4. terina erb

    Nice! Thanks for showing the layering in Photoshop. I am new to all of this and that really helps.

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  5. Jay Trotter

    Makes for a great image!

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  6. Tanya Goodall Smith

    Great tutorial. I think you should bring out the YNT accent a little more often in tutorials. ;)

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  7. Mark C

    great thanks!

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  8. Mark C

    Awesome video Pye! What software do you guys use to add the pop ups and PIPs in your video? I need to up my game on the youtube front!

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  9. Tyler Friesen

    I just did this for the last wedding I shot. Just one 580EX ii on a stand and umbrella with the Pocket Wizard Flex and mini. It work out wonderfully.

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    • Pye

      Strobing works just as awesome too! Love it Tyler.

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    • Kyle Stauffer

      What method did you use? 

      I figured there is three options – 1) slow shutter speed with rear curtain flash to get the couple sharp but have long light trails Or 2) Use multiple exposures like Pye did  Or 3) Use a fast shutter speed and get the couple sharp with minimum light trails.

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