Each year millions of people pack up their cars and head to a local destination to watch the sky light up and crackle. Firework shows are not only a desired destination for families but also for photographers looking to capture that perfect firework photo to add to their portfolio. This year we want to help you capture a special photograph by offering you a couple tricks that will prepare you for the beautiful lights in the sky on the Fourth of July.
8 Helpful Tips for Firework Photography
- Make sure to bring a tripod when preparing to photograph fireworks! Firework photography requires long exposures and slow shutter speeds.
Using a sturdy tripod and a shutter release cord can keep your camera motionless and prevent you from ending up with blurry photos. It is a good idea to have a remote since you won’t know exactly when the fireworks will go off.
- Always use manual focus instead of auto focus. For many cameras it can be difficult to use autofocus in low light situations. To prevent missing great firework shots try adjusting your camera to manual focus. Remember if you change focal lengths throughout the firework show it will mean you need to adjust your manual focus on most lenses.
- Opt away from using a flash when shooting fireworks. No matter the power of the camera flash or add-on flash it will not be enough to reach the fireworks. Go flash less for the highest quality and clearest photos.
4. If you’re having trouble adjusting the camera settings try starting at the lowest ISO possible and a slow shutter speed. The low ISO will keep the image high quality and the slower the shutter speed will enable you to capture the light trails. Try setting the ISO range at 100 to 400 and choose an aperture between f/8 and f/16. In order to capture the light trails that the fireworks will create start with a slow shutter speed around 1/15 second.
5. It is important to plan ahead when preparing to capture photos during a firework show. It will take time to set up your equipment, adjust camera settings, and scout out an ideal location to shoot from. Google Maps and Google Earth can be valuable tools to use in advance when looking to find the perfect location for shooting.
Take a look at this article about using Google Maps when planning out your next destination to photography. Since most shows occur at night remember to pack a flashlight or arrive early to set up your tripod and equipment. Arriving early will allow you to find a creative vantage point, for example, a body of water that will create a reflection of the fireworks.
- Most Canon and Nikon digital SLRs have bulb mode. It is a good idea to check this setting out when preparing to capture firework photographs. The bulb mode is when the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button. This makes it possible for you to open the shutter as the firework is going up in the sky and close it after the firework has finished exploding. Make sure to determine aperture and exposure settings prior to shooting since bulb is in manual mode.
- It is a good idea to capture most of your photos toward the beginning of the show to prevent smoke and haze from abstracting your photographs. At the beginning of the show the sky will still be clear and you will get the prettier photographs. The end of the firework show might be a better time to get close up photographs or abstracts. Depending on how dark of a sky you want in the backdrop of your photographs station yourself to shoot into the eastern sky not facing west. When shooting into the sunset the sky can get blown out and the fireworks don’t show up as clear as they do in a darker sky.
- Lastly, remember that a simple point and shoot camera can do the trick too! The photo below was captured by Andy Williams with a Canon SD 960 Point & Shoot camera and a Gorillapod by Joby. When taking this photo he put the point and shoot on “fireworks mode” and the self timer to 2 seconds on the Gorillapod. With the correct settings, point and shoot cameras can take great firework photographs!
If our readers have any more tips and tricks for shooting fireworks that the BL community should know please leave your comments below!
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