How To Photograph Fireworks

 
Is your city putting on a massive display of fireworks this weekend? Or maybe just your neighbor Chip? Wherever the show is, here’s a few tips to capture those loud sparklies in all their glory.


Use a Tripod
Since you’ll be using longer shutter speeds it’s important to keep the camera steady.

If you find yourself out without a tripod, here are some other ways, some of which I have done myself, to help you steady your shot. Set the camera on a solid surface, and use an object or your hand under it to point the lens toward the fireworks. A garbage can, stroller handle, fence, or on a sweatshirt on the roof of a car.

With good holding technique, and the anti-shake features built into some camera’s and lenses you might get by okay without one. However, best results will always be achieved using a tripod or other solid support.


Framing
There are many effective ways to frame fireworks images.
 
  • Try a variety: Fill the frame, horizontal, vertical, include interesting scenery in the frame, etc.
  • Try not to get stuck at one focal length, if you can, try a variety of focal lengths. Zoom in on the display, and shoot wide.
  • Depending on your point of view, don’t forget to get a couple that include the spectators watching the show!
  • Keep an eye on your horizon. It’s real easy to forget to keep your camera level while you take your shots.
 
 
Camera Settings
If you have a point and shoot, check your manual to see if you can set controls manually. Alternatively you could check and see if your camera has a “fireworks” scene mode. It’s not magic and has no guarantees but it might be worth a try.
  • Remote or Timer - If you have a remote release this will further reduce camera shake. When you press the shutter release, even on a solid surface, some shake is introduced. A remote will help. If you don’t have a remote you can use the timer feature on your camera. If you can set the time, usually 2 seconds is sufficient.
  • Mode - Manual mode, definitely manual. You can sometimes get away with shutter or aperture, but manual gives you the control you will likely need.
  • Aperture Fireworks are fairly bright, so you should be able to get by with a smaller aperture. f/8 – f/16 to get more in focus.
  • Shutter Speed - I’ve done this a couple different ways. One is to experiment with the shutter speed setting and see what is turning out well. The other way is to use bulb and start the exposure at the beginning of the burst (or just after you hear the launch and anticipate the burst starting). You then wait until the burst is done to end the exposure. You’ll discover in your first couple of tests that it really doesn’t take that long to expose the fireworks since they are so bright. You may find yourself adjusting as you go too, but shouldn't have to change the settings too much.
  • ISO - Use the lowest ISO setting to help ensure the cleanest results possible.
  • Focus - If you are back a ways, focus your lens to infinity. Some prefer to find the focus point with auto, then switch to manual and leave it. Often, the fireworks create enough contrast to focus, as long as you're not trying to focus at the brightest point of the burst. After you nail focus you may want to switch to manual focus and leave it.
  • Flash – Don’t forget to turn it off!

Summary


Be flexible and make adjustments as you go.

  • Tripod and remote release or timer
  • Manual mode
  • Low ISO
  • Start with aperture around F/11 and experiment with shutter speed. If you are not getting the length of time you want, adjust the aperture as needed, and ISO if absolutely necessary. If you need to brush up on how shutter speed, aperture and ISO work together, read the Exposure Triangle Series.
  • You don't need a DSLR, the opening image in this article was taken with my old 4.3MP point and shoot.
     

Other Advice
 

Other random advice from my experience or that I have read...
 
The sky will start getting smoke filled. So be ready to start shooting when the fireworks start. Arrive early and get setup. If you want cleaner images you’ll get more of them at the start.
 
If you know where the wind is going, shoot upwind from it. That way smoke goes away from you and doesn’t get between you and the fireworks display.
 

If you have a variety of options for lens focal length, then further back is usually better than being right on top of the fireworks. This will give you many more framing options and make it easier to track the bursts. Another advantage of being back further is setting your lens to infinity for focus and leaving it there.

 
What fireworks tips do you have? (feel free to share a link to your photos)
Do you have a memory to share of watching fireworks in your town?

 

Comments

No comments posted.
Loading...
Subscribe
RSS
Archive
January February (7) March (1) April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June (1) July (3) August September (1) October November December
January February (1) March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September (1) October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December
January February March April May June July August September October November December