Another 4th of July has come and gone in Washington, DC. If you’re like me, a native to the area, you probably dread the traffic in the city around this time. You would rather shoot bottle rockets out of your mouth than sit in the parking lot that is I495 for another 30 seconds. As a photographer I feel guilty every time I opt to stay home and neglect the special occasion going on in the tidal basin. No images can quite compare to the spectacular show that can only be captured in Washington. Or can they? Even with a limited knowledge of photoshop you can turn your shopping-center-parking-lot-shipping-crate fireworks into gigantic explosions that will leave viewers of your artwork questioning where you truly did spend your 4th of July.
Before I jump into the editing side, I will briefly cover the setup of the camera. Personally, I pop out a tripod, plant my butt in a lawn chair, and use a shutter release to trigger the camera. It lets me shoot the photos while actually enjoying the fireworks. For close up fireworks I stick to the 50-80mm lens range. Make sure you check focus! Use some light from a flashlight to find a point to focus on and flip your autofocus to manual so it won’t budge mid shoot. Last but not least, the exposure settings; ISO 100, F9-14, shutter 1″.
After finalizing the camera set up, it is time to light some fireworks. If you followed the directions correctly up you will end up with an image that looks like this:
Photoshop Your Fireworks
Be sure to crop any firework boxes or exposed ground out of view. A plain black background is what works best for these types of images. You can also further crop your image like I did for different results. As you can see I am working with a small section of the original file.
After taking care of that it is time to start getting creative!
Start by duplicating and renaming the background layers “top_left” and “top_right”.
You don’t ‘really’ need to rename the layers, however, photoshop can become an organizational nightmare. I have found that keeping track of every layer is the way to go even if the project doesn’t call for it. Practice makes permanent!
Once the layers have been duplicated, it is time to blow your canvas up to size! Dive into the menu bar at the top of the application and select “Edit”, followed by “Canvas Size”. In the pop up window you will need to change the “pixel” drop down menu to “percent” and double the size from 100% to 200%. This will create a canvas that will allow us to mirror the image a total of 4 times.
Now you can see why I named the files “top_right” and “top_left”, so move them into position! Sometimes the move tool is off by one measly pixel. You need to zoom all the way in and manually double check that both layers are aligned.
When everything looks neat it is time to make the first reflection. Select the top left layer and head back into the “Edit” menu. Locate “Transform” and select “Flip Horizontally”. You will be satisfied with your image as is, but I want to take this a step further. After all we still have half a canvas that isn’t in use.
Start off by merging the layers by highlighting both layers and right clicking. Duplicate the layer and rename the new layers “Top” and “Bottom”. As you guessed, we are moving these to the top and bottom of the canvas and reflecting them again.
Open up the “Edit” drop down menu and go back to “Flip Horizontally”, however, this time select “Flip Vertically”. Your final result will look like this: