July 4th is just around the bend which means it’s time to start thinking about how to improve your firework photography technique so that your images don’t come out hazy, overexposed, or otherwise distorted. In the past, we’ve offered a few short tips on how to photograph fireworks but this year, we’d like to go a little more in depth.
1) Make certain you have a sturdy tripod, a good remote, and an extended life battery — If you’re a fireworks photography novice, you’re going to be constantly reviewing and adjusting your settings until you hit the sweet spot so you want to make certain that your camera isn’t going to wiggle or tip while you’re photographing several seconds’ worth of exposures. Also, the remote not only decreases the chance of user-caused camera shake, it also allows you to enjoy the show instead of focusing on what you can see through the viewfinder only.
2) Turn off long exposure noise reduction and live view — Long exposure noise reduction works by taking 10-second exposures and averaging them. However, fireworks don’t generally last 10 seconds so relying on this mode will cause you nightmares. Additionally, using live view is supposed to be for previewing video, not stills. If you’re using live view, you’re going to eat through battery capacity very quickly.
3) Focus your lens ahead of time and turn off auto focus — If you have auto focus on, your camera will try to refocus the lens after every shot. Not only does this take power, but, unless you’re moving your camera between shots, you shouldn’t need to refocus the lens.
4) Shoot most of your shots at the start of the show — After a few volleys of fireworks, the air is going to be thick with haze and smoke which can blur your photos. So, you’ll want to get most of your shots done before the haze is too thick.
5) Face east — You’ll want darker backgrounds to contrast against the firework explosions. That means you’ll want to face east since the sun sets in the west.
6) Don’t be afraid to try different lenses if you can — Wide angle lenses are the most popular for photographing fireworks but telephoto and zoom lenses can capture great images as well. Don’t be afraid to experiment — just remember to focus the lens and not rely on Auto Focus!