How to take Fireworks Pictures
It is no secret that nothing attracts a crowd more than a great fireworks displays.
While these displays are fantastic to watch, photographs of the event can help you remember it long past the last explosive display has blasted off and disbursed into the night sky.
But there are some things to consider when photographing any fireworks display in order to have the best chance of capturing the colorful explosions. I hope that these tips for taking pictures of your Fourth of July firework celebrations will give you a good chance of capturing the image and the moment for lasting memories of an important event.
Firework photography Tips & Tricks:
- Use a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, set you camera on a fixed platform or brace yourself against a solid structure.
- Use a Remote Camera Release or your camera’s self timer.
- Flashlight, extra batteries, Storage cards – Charge all batteries, and empty your storage card before the event.
- If you haven’t used your camera for awhile, spend a few minutes to familiarize yourself with the controls. It will be dark and you will be in a rush.
- Consider what focal lengths you might want to use and choose the appropriate lenses to bring with you.
Site location preparation:
- Get to the location early in order to get a good, unobstructed position.
- Take note of where fireworks are being set up and what parts of the sky they are likely to be shot into.
- Look for a place with an unobstructed view of the sky and horizon. Remember, you want to see fireworks in front of you, not above you.
- Watch out for trees and buildings that could block your view, and street lamps and other lighting which might make your exposures tricky.
- Try to find landmarks or other interesting things you can use to make your compositions more interesting.
- Try to find a unique vantage point: near a body of water that will reflect the fireworks, high up where the fireworks are at eye-level.
- Many recent cameras have a scene mode specifically for fireworks. Try some photos with and without it and see what you prefer.
- Fireworks give off a fair amount of smoke. Make sure the wind isn’t headed in your direction or the smoke will obscure your view.
- As you get your camera on your tripod make sure it’s level.
- Vertical or Horizontal? – There are two main ways of framing shots in all types of photography, vertically (portrait) or horizontally (landscape). You’ll want to choose the one that matches your position.
- Mode - Shoot in manual mode if possible, or, your camera may even have a “fireworks” setting.
- Focus - Select manual focus and get the area that the fireworks will explode in focus when it is still light, or, use the first couple explosions to get the correct focus.
- Focal length - Unless you are a great distance away, use a zoom lens if possible to give yourself the option of some close-up shots and also wider shots if needed.
- Aperture - Use apertures in the mid- to small range. An aperture of f/8 should be just about right.
- Shutter Speed - It is very easy to overexpose fireworks and end up with a big white flash. You want to expose the colors streaming out of the explosion, but not enough to lose the color. At least one second, sometimes two seconds, and some even longer.
- ISO - ISO is the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light, the lower the ISO, the less sensitive. In the case of fireworks,100 ISO is slow enough to capture the colors without overexposing.
- Turn off your flash – It is not needed.
Taking the shot
- Take lots of shots early on as smoke will begin to build as the event progresses and may somewhat obstruct the view. Select a site upwind if possible.
- Periodically check your results and adjust accordingly. Experiment with taking shots that include a wider perspective, people, buildings, landmarks or wider cityscape perspectives.
- Try multiple exposures, use some black foam core and set your camera to bulb (This setting allows you to hold the shutter open manually.) Start the exposure when the fireworks start with the piece of foam core in front of the lens. Every time a burst happens move the foam core out of the way.
Remember, this is a once-a-year event, it’s worth the effort to make your photographic record of the celebration a memorable one.
See Dennis' other work at his website: www.northernimages.com