sparkles in the sky

How to photograph fireworks

Key principles of fireworks photography

Camera settings

[dropcap]M[/dropcap]anual Mode is the best to photograph fireworks. Don’t chance it! If you use auto settings, your camera will  bring the exposure up making the scene too bright. In full auto settings your camera will most likely fire flash. This will only drain your battery and is not likely to help you improve your image.

  • ISO settings: the lower the better. Try starting with 100-200. Or 400 ISO if the scene is too dark.
  • Aperture: f/8-f/16 are recommended. f/8 is a good starting point.
  • Shutter speed: there are several ways you can set your shutter speed.
    • You can set your shutter speed to BULB mode or to 30 seconds. Start shooting and cover the lens every time there’s no firework. To cover the lens place a black card or even a black hat in front of a lens.
    • Or you can try the fixed range of shutter speed of 2.5 -5 seconds. Take sample images to choose the best shutter speed for your situation. It will depend on the intensiveness of the fireworks. If they’re too bright you’ll probably need 2.5 seconds.
    • Third option wold be using a cable release in a BULB mode. You can press the cable release and hold it for as many seconds as you wish. Try with a smaller number (like 2 seconds) and work your way up – see what works the best. This gives you an option to be very flexible during the photoshoot, not changing any of the camera settings. Have fun!

Other things to consider when you photograph fireworks

1. Use a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod with you, put your camera on something steady (e.g. fence) 
2. Use a remote cable release to reduce camera shake. Other option is to set the timer on your camera from 2 to 10 seconds. 
3. Get early to get a good spot. 
4. Use a proper lens. Good lens is 24-70mm. You can also try 100mm. Ultra wide is not very suitable. Fireworks could be too far, thus they’ll be very small in your image. Unless you are very close to them and want to include something in the foreground.
5. Use manual focus. [highlight]Focus on the first firework and switch to manual.[/highlight] Now you don’t have to worry about it again. If you let your camera decide where to focus, it will most likely focus on the closest thing to you, making the fireworks blurry.

Bonus tips:

Look around. Don’t focus all of your attention on the fireworks (unless its a very short show). Photograph people looking at the fireworks, add a foreground, use some of the composition techniques to make your images more interesting.

Bring a chair, water, snacks and a flashlight.

Best shots will most likely be at the beginning of the show. Later some smoke will gather (especially if there’s no wind).

colourful fireworks
Smoke from fireworks

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