Photographing fireworks can be a great experience if you’re using the right tools and methods to photograph them. You don’t want to be going into photographing fireworks thinking you can hand hold your camera and get amazing shots because that is never the case. Being prepared is the first step in photographing fireworks. Here are some additional tips to get you started in the right direction when it comes to photographing fireworks.
Scout Your Locations
Knowing where you’re going to shoot from is important. For instance if you’re shooting with a city skyline in the background like Miami or New York, you want to frame your shot to make the skyline impactful. Another factor to determine when scouting your location is the weather; more specifically the wind. You don’t want to find yourself with the smoke from the fireworks blowing towards you. That will cause your fireworks to be clouded and blocked by the smoke and who wants to see fireworks hidden behind giant plumes of smoke? And since you are shooting at night, bring a flashlight or use your phone’s flashlight to help you navigate in the dark.
Use a Tripod
The importance of a good tripod can not be stated enough. If you think you can hand hold your camera and get sharp shots you’re just fooling yourself. The use of a tripod will ensure that your camera won’t be getting any vibrations that can cause blur in your photos.
Focus Manually, Shoot Manually
Manually focus your lens to infinity. You risk missing focus if you try to use auto focus. This is easiest way to ensure the fireworks are in focus. You don’t want your auto focus to be hunting when the best of the fireworks is going off. Speaking of manual, set your program mode to manual on your camera. This gives you complete control over your exposure. The tips after this will explain more, but skip the aperture and shutter modes and only shoot in manual. You’ll thank me later.
Start at F/11
Setting your aperture to f/11 is a great starting point when it comes to shooting fireworks. After the first couple of shots, review them, aka chimp, and see how the exposure is looking. Adjust your aperture from there and you should be good to go. It’s always best to knock this setting out early so you will achieve consistent shots through out the firework display. I rarely deviate from f/11 when I’m shooting fireworks.
Set Your Shutter to Bulb
There is no need to have the camera try to guess the shutter speed for you. Just set it manually to bulb. With bulb you control how long the shutter remains open for. You can expose for the entire firework burst and you can also keep the shutter open longer so you can capture multiple bursts. I personally like multiple bursts as it gives the photo a lot of colors and depending on the burst of the firework you can get some great designs from the long exposure.
Use a Cable Release
By using a cable release you help eliminate the chance of vibration during the exposure. Without one you have to press the shutter with your finger and risk shaking the camera. A cable release makes your life easier especially if you’re have the shutter open for longer than 10 seconds as some cable releases come with a lock button which eliminates the need for you to push the button on the cable release during the entire exposure.
These are just a few tips I use when I’m shooting fireworks. Leave any tips you have below in the comments section.