How to Shoot Fireworks?

How to shoot photographs of fireworks? It may sounds difficult. But framing fireworks on camera can be mastered easily with the right equipment and camera settings on your camera. It doesn’t matter if you have a DSLR or a point-and-shoot , you’ll still be able to shoot those amazing shots of the Fireworks display.

Equipment needed:

  • Camera: Either point-and-shoot or an DSLR.
  • Tripod: To keep the camera steady during long exposure, needed for fireworks photography.
  • Flashlight:  To see the camera settings in the dark.
  • Cable release or Wireless Trigger: Not necessary but it helps to prevent camera shake.

How To Set Your Camera?

Take control of your camera. Set our camera into manual mode.

Focusing manually at infinity works great. Sometimes pre-focusing at surrounding structures do the job nicely. If you manage to use auto focus go ahead. You will be using f/8- f/16, so dont worry about depth of field. Once focus is set you don’t do not have to change the focus  unless you change the zoom range.

Aperture between f/8 and f/16 is the best. Since we are shooting in the dark, people commonly think they need a fast aperture to get them. Actually it is quite the opposite, you are exposing the bright light. The exact setting also depends on the distance of the fireworks & intensity of burst . Use histogram & adjust accordingly.

In Fireworks Photography Shutter Speed is more important than aperture. You need long exposures of 4-10 sec to capture the movement of bursts. Use ‘bulb’, it will allow you to keep the shutter open for as long as you hold down the shutter (using a remote shutter release). Hit the shutter as the firework is about to burst (need to anticipate it) and hold it down until burst is complete.

You can also pre set shutter speeds, but it is less flexible & sometimes frustrating. Avoid over exposing & keep your shutter open too long. It will over expose the smoke created by fireworks and may produce a hazy effect.

Best ISO for fireworks photography is 100-200. Lower base ISO will give you cleanest shots possible. Never use Auto ISO.

Shoot RAW for total control & Switch off your Flash (obviously!)

In compacts with no manual exposure option, use the Aperture-Priority (A or Av) mode. Choose the aperture between 8-16, press the shutter before the burst. If the shutter stays open longer than your desire cover the lens (with your hand or something else) until shutter closes to cover the extra time. Use Night scenic mode or Shutter-Priority (4-10 Sec), If you don’t have Bulb mode. Again don’t forget to switch off you flash.

4th of July Fireworks At Red Rock Casino, Las Vegas

Things to remember

Do some homework, use Flickr or Google images to get an idea. Better, show up early for the event & secure your location that has a nice view with an attractive foreground & background if possible. Also make sure, there is very little or no chance that other viewers can obstruct your view. Avoid street lights, they tend to become overexposed. If possible gather information on where fireworks are being set up and what parts of the sky they are likely to fill. Use Zoom lenses for more flexibility. Remember you need to aim your camera before the fireworks starts and anticipate the burst. Long focal length are difficult to aim & frame. Zoom will give you more flexibility in this case. Better to start with wide angle, then longer focal length for more tight  framing.Try to include Iconic structure like buildings, statue to add extra interests & feel. Lakes and rivers also good for beautiful reflections. Bring some extra memory cards & take as many shot as possible to increase your chances. You only need one or two perfect shots! Watch your framing time to time & remember your framing. So that you can guess at what part of your frame the busts are happening without looking at viewfinder. It will also help you to survey the surroundings & anticipate the correct time of burst & press the shutter at the right moment. Too many bursts in a single frame might overexpose your shots. But if you want to be more creative you may try one. I have seen some excellent images with too many burst. Be creative. Early part is the best part to photograph fireworks. Because the sky usually stays clear at that time. In the later part, the sky become hazy due to smoke created by the early burst. In photography there are no rules. Make your own rules. If you missed it this time… there’s always next time …

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