8 Beginner Tips for Photographing Fireworks

8 Beginner Tips for Photographing Fireworks

Each year, millions of people pack up their cars and head to a local destination to watch the sky light up and crackle. Fireworks shows are not only a desired destination for families but also for photographers looking to capture that perfect fireworks photo. We want to help you capture a special photograph by offering you a couple tricks that will prepare you for the beautiful lights on Fourth of July.

A Tripod is Important

Make sure to bring a camera tripod when preparing to photograph fireworks! Fireworks photography requires long exposures and slow shutter speeds. Using a sturdy tripod with a shutter release cord can keep your camera completely motionless.

Don’t Depend on Autofocus

Always use manual focus instead of autofocus. For many cameras, it can be difficult to use autofocus in very low light and you will miss shots.

Forget Flash

Don’t use 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.

Starter Settings

Start 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 allow you to capture the light trails. Set your ISO between 100-400 and choose an aperture between f/8 and f/16. Start with a slow shutter speed of around 1/15th of a second. Adjust from there.

Arrive Early

It is important to plan ahead with fireworks photography. It will take time to set up your equipment, adjust camera settings, and scout out an ideal location to shoot from. Since shows begin at night, remember to pack a flashlight (a small red one so as to not bother other people) or arrive well before sunset.

Turn your shutter dial to “B” or toggle your shutter down to “bulb” via your camera’s LCD.

Try Bulb Mode

Most cameras have bulb mode. It is a good idea to check this setting out when preparing to capture fireworks. 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.

Shoot Before the Smoke

Capture most of your photos at the beginning of the show to prevent smoke and haze from clouding up your scene. At the beginning of the show, the sky will still be clear and you will get prettier shots. 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 clearly as they do in a darker sky. This only applies to shows that begin a bit early.

You Don’t Need the Fanciest Gear

Remember, 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 and shoot camera and a Gorillapod mini tripod. 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!

Have more tips and tricks for shooting fireworks? Leave your comments below and share your work!

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Katie Hayes

Katie Hayes is a recent graduate pursuing her passion for photography and marketing while interning with BorrowLenses.

4 Comments

  1. Google Tom Bricker. He’s the WDW fireworks go to guy and has shared a lot of his knowledge online. Also don’t forget that neutral density filters can come in handy when shooting fireworks.

    Reply
  2. Get an OM-D and shoot in LiveComposite or LiveTime mode. 🙂

    Reply
  3. set your camera to M mode for 30sec or bulb and use a black cardboard to block on and off the fireworks, you can get amazing results as in everything it takes practices and patiences

    Reply

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