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how to take pictures of fireworks

How to take pictures of fireworks

I am sure you want to know how to photograph fireworks? Let it be on the occasion of July 4th or the new year celebrations, Fireworks are always very tricky to photograph and when you shoot them correctly, you will be amazed at how beautiful and colorful they are. To shoot fireworks there are definitely a few important steps required to get the best and most vibrant shots. I would like you to take through a series of tips and tricks that I personally follow when clicking fireworks pictures.

Here are the basic accessories you need to take firework pictures

A stable tripod

It is impossible to shoot the fireworks without a tripod ( you can defintely use a chair or a table or even a wall instead of a tripod ) but defintely not handheld. This is mainly because we are taking a long exposure shot (2 seconds or above) and the camera needs to be stable for the 2+ secs when the camera is taking the shot. If your lens is not a heavy lens, you can defintely get a very cheap tripod from amazon – will cost you less than 20$ ( link )

A good wide angle lens (if you are closer to the fireworks area)
A wide angle lens also comes handy when you want to capture the whole area + the fireworks. I will prefer a focal length of 17mm – 70 mm for these shots. So if you don’t have a wide angle lens and your lens starts with a 70mm , I prefer you select a location which is far from the fireworks area . Also you also have an option to rent a wide angle lens from your local camera rental shop or even online stores (borrowlenses.com).

Finding the best location to shoot fireworks
This is very important for composing the best fireworks picture. We definitely don’t need peoples ‘head’ in your shots and will be better if you can find a location with less crowded. I always prefer the following guidelines before picking a location :

– Open field with less crowd
– Presence of a building or structure (its better to have structures in the shot to get a comparison of the size and details of the fireworks.
– Less movement in the frame – Finding an area where there is no movement of cars or public – that can create ‘ghost’ effects in the picture

Always shoot in Manual Mode and Manual focus

Yes, Auto mode doesn’t work best here. This a great opportunity for you to experiment manual mode in your DSLR. This also helps you to control shutter speed, Aperture and ISO to find the best appropriate settings for that night. The following section will clearly mention you the best camera settings you need to set for photographing fireworks.
Also with Manual Focus, as the area is dark the lens will find it difficult to find the point to focus. You can always pre-focus the camera (selecting the top right or top left focus point ) and wait for the first firework to brighten up the sky so that the camera finds the focus point.Also check your manual whether you can lock the focus point.

Shutter release (wireless or wired)
This helps us to avoid camera shakes when pressing the button on the camera. If you don’t have a shutter release, please use the 2 secs timer built-in your camera (You need to be very accurate in judging when the shell is fired from the ground).

Best fireworks photography settings – very important

– Aperture Settings

Make sure you start with F11. As there are lot of details to be captured in the photo, we need to make sure that we set a smaller aperture. Also at the end of the firework display, I am sure that there will be a lot of shells going up together and they will be a time when the sky becomes too bright at f11. At that time I recommend you increase to f19 or f 22 or even the highest (my canon 60D goes till F32) – they totally depends on how bright your area becomes. I recommend experimenting (going up the F value) various aperture value starting from F11.

– Shutter speed

2 seconds and Up. Understand that the 2 seconds from the shell is fired and its travelling up in the sky. If the firework is travelling high and you are not able to fit in that period, try to increase the shutter speed to 4-6 seconds. I have acheived wonderful results with 6 seconds (Especially when you have multiple fireworks at the same time).

– ISO

Set the ISO to 100 – to the lowest your camera goes. We defintely don’t need ISO as we have a tripod and we are setting long exposure – so light will be good enough when the fireworks are in the sky.

A few basic firework photography tips and tricks

– Try to get the best shots in the first 5-10 mins of the fireworks display, as the end part of the display will have a lot of smoke in the sky.
– Make sure that wind is not shaking the camera while photographing fireworks.
– Be well prepared to change the settings while the fireworks is going on. As mentioned before, the first few minutes of the firework display gives you the sharpest and neatest shots.
– Always track your results after every shot so that you know what to change to perfect it. There will be many occasions when the shots go dark or bright. A speedy decision on finding the best settings can help you start in the beginning of the display to capture the best firework photos.
– Find good firework pictures in Google images or even try photo sharing websites like flickr, pixoto to find well composed firework pictures. They give you a lot of ideas on “how to compose the best firework pictures” and also help you find a good location to setup your equipment.
– Take as many pictures of the fireworks till the end of the display. You don’t know when you will get your best shot.

If you have any questions / comments / recommendations, Please feel free to add a comment.