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How to Photograph Fireflies

man in black shirt standing on green grass field during daytime

While writing about everything you should include in a summer photo book – stay tuned for the next blog! – we thought we’d mention fireflies. Known for their magical bioluminescent glow, these insects never fail to add a touch of wonder to those warm summer evenings, but when it came to writing about how to photograph these critters, we quickly realised we wouldn’t be able to cover it in just a few sentences. 

This would have been a shame. After all, if you’ve taken the time to seek out the best photo book maker, you want to ensure you’re uploading your best summer photographs. So rather than gloss over what can be quite a tricky endeavour, we thought we’d write a full guide on photographing fireflies, including a few tips and tricks to capture their glow just right.

Invest in a Tripod

To start off, we can’t stress highly enough how important a tripod will be in firefly shooting. Many people have tried to photograph the magical, fiery trails of fireflies, and many people have failed, and that’s always because they weren’t prepared. Before we even get into exposure times and shutter speeds, make sure you buy a tripod that can give you some reliable stability. Without it, you’re going to fail.

Find the Right Spot

Not everywhere in the US gets fireflies, so if you’ve never had the opportunity to experience these beautiful, butt-glowing bugs, you need to know where you’re heading first. Some of the best spots to see fireflies in the US include Allegheny National Forest, Congaree National Park, and the Highland Rim area. If you want an almost guaranteed sighting, the best firefly spot is undoubtedly the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and North Carolina – a place famous for its synchronous fireflies which flash in unison.

Choose the Right Time

If you’re lucky enough to have fireflies where you live – or you’ve taken the time to travel to the above places – you should also be aware of timings. Across the US, fireflies typically start their light displays around dusk and continue for several hours into the night. To see them properly and take some clear photographs, make sure you’re away from light pollution, and wait patiently after sunset for them to start popping up.

Download the Best App

Shutter speed is going to be important in your shooting endeavours, and the best way to find the right shutter speed is to download the right app. In our opinion, the ‘slow shutter’ effect on the ProCam 7 app is perfect for this endeavour – rather than actively slowing down the shutter, it actually creates a new image by stacking various images in a continuous shot. The app’s ‘low light’ mode is also great for increasing brightness, and the ‘light trails’ mode can easily capture even the slightest movements of the bugs.

Looooong Exposure

This is where your patience is going to be tested. Once you’ve found your location and your app, it’s time to place your camera onto the tripod and do some shooting. All you need to do, in this instance, is press the shutter and wait for approximately two to three minutes. What you’re doing here is forcing your phone into a longer exposure time, waiting for the fireflies to accumulate on screen and snapping them consistently to create that stacked image. Once you’re done, you should have a gorgeous, almost other-worldly photograph of lights darting about the screen.

Try Alternative Methods

This is probably the best and most reliable way to photograph fireflies, but there are others. Light painting, for instance, is a common technique used by photographers, whereby a flashlight is used to selectively illuminate parts of the scene during a long exposure. HDR photography is another way to do it, taking bracketed exposures at different exposure levels before merging them into a single HDR image. If you want to get experimental, you can also try a bit of silhouette photography, positioning yourself so that the silhouette of another subject is visible against the glowing backdrop. As we mentioned previously, fireflies tend to stick around for at least a few hours, so you’ll have plenty of time to try new things.

Don’t be Disheartened

If you look up photographs of fireflies online, you’re likely to find a load of gorgeous, artistic pictures, but it’s important to remember that those photographers are pros – and this is your first time even attempting something like this. For this reason, it’s important to remain optimistic, and if you don’t get that magical photograph the first night, go out there and try again. The fireflies aren’t going anywhere, and sooner or later, their magical nature will rub off on you!


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