Fireworks displays attract millions of spectators annually. Fireworks are essentially streaks of light that are moving in the dark. But how to photograph fireworks for best results? Firework photography isn’t an easy task. And it often results in blurry shots and inaccurate exposures. So how do photographers snap those amazing fireworks photographs you see online? With the right gear, the proper settings, a few shooting tricks, and some patience. These tips on how to photograph fireworks will help you take your fireworks images from blah to awesome.
Start with a solid tripod
A short shutter speed will capture fireworks as many dots of light. This is not usually the result you’re looking for, so a long exposure is needed to see long streaks of color. If your Sony camera from Beachcamera.com is not motionless during those long exposures, the smooth paths of light the fireworks create will appear jagged. Mount your camera on a tripod and level it.
Most camera lenses will work well as long as they have the right focal length or focal length range available. Most camera lenses provide very good optical quality at the f/8 through f/16 apertures typically used for fireworks photography. If you aren’t sure what focal length you need, take a couple of lenses. Zoom lenses like the one included with the Nikon D3500 Kit from Beachcamera.com provide the most flexibility if you aren’t sure of your viewing distance or focal length requirements. A scouting trip prior to the event will prove valuable.
Show up early
Make sure your location has a clear line of sight and that late arriving viewers cannot obstruct your view. Setup your equipment behind your blanket to help keep the view clear. At the same time, treat others with consideration. When selecting a location, consider wind direction. Fireworks create a lot of smoke and a downwind shooting position will not be favorable in this regard. Be sure the background is pleasant. Remember that street and other lights will become overexposed blobs that require post-processing to remove.
For a shutter speed, Bulb is often best
In Bulb mode, you can press the remote shutter release as a rocket is launching and hold it open until the firework completely fades from its explosion. This duration is generally 2 to 10 seconds.
Aperture and ISO settings
Exposure of fireworks is based on the aperture and ISO settings used. You may think that a fast aperture would be helpful since you’re shooting in the dark, but you’re shooting very bright light. The specific aperture needed depends on the brightness of the fireworks and the distance you are from them. Generally, the best aperture between f/8 and f/16. Using an aperture narrower than f/8 may result in soft images as the effects of diffraction begin to show. Since plenty of light is available, use ISO 100 for the lowest noise levels possible.
Get additional subjects in your photos
Large landmark buildings look great in fireworks pictures. Lakes, rivers and even small ponds create beautiful reflections. Adding a person or multiple people to the photo adds interest. A flash will be of no use in lighting the fireworks, but it can be useful in lighting a foreground subject watching the fireworks. Also consider lighting foreground subjects with your flashlight. You’ll want to focus on foreground subjects instead of the fireworks for these shots.
Creativity doesn’t need to end with the shot
The black sky background in fireworks photos makes it easy to add other fireworks blasts or other items, such as a moon, to your images in Photoshop. Try replacing the complete black background with the American flag. Post processing also includes removal of non-desirables from the frame, potentially including street lights, smoke, and remains from the previous burst.
Fireworks photography isn’t hard. Getting a great looking fireworks picture just requires a little planning and simple execution. You’ll be adding impressive shots to your collection in no time.