Tips to Shoot Fireworks

With the 4th of July celebration comes to a near, we have gathered some useful tips for any digital photographers out there who want to take some great photos of fireworks:

Riverfire Fireworks
River Festival Fireworks, Brisbane – Australia (ISO 100 at f/16 and 8 secs)

This is the first important thing to do if you want to get the best spot in the venue. It is even better if you spend some times to scout the location and have a little talk to the event crews to determine where the fireworks will be launched. Once you’ve got all the information needed, try to position yourself wisely. Find a clear, unobstructed view that meets your compositional requirements based on the terrain. Also try to find a place where people won’t be able to wondering around in front of the camera or worse kicking your tripod in the mid-exposure

2. Always use tripod (& camera remote control/cable release)

To be able to capture the light trail as shown as the fireworks picture above requires long exposure times ( 4-10 secs). You will definitely need a tripod to do that kind of shot. There’s no way you can hold your camera for at least 5 secs without making any movement. The camera remote control is used to ensure that you won’t have to physically touch the shutter release thus eliminating the possibility of camera shake.

3. Your Focus Setting

If you have a point and shoot digital camera, try to set your camera to landscape mode which typically designated by an icon that looks like a small mountain range. This will set you lens to infinity that will free you from any focusing issues.

If you have a DSLR camera, then it’s better if you set your camera to M (manual) mode and also manually set your lens to infinity.. or in my case, with the fireworks exploding over the bridge, i tried to focus my lens on the bridge.

4. Your Exposure Setting

There’s no exact rules for your exposure settings, where shorter exposures don’t always capture the full burst and longer exposures tend to produce washed-out results. The beauty of Digital camera is that you can always check your picture before deciding the next exposure setting to get a better picture. My first fireworks picture above was shot at ISO 100 at f/16 and 8 secs.

If you have a B (Bulb) shutter speed setting you can use it to control exactly how long your shutter is open. The trick is to open the shutter right at the beginning of the burst and close it when it reaches its peak.

Using one of the suggested apertures listed below, you can use your preview to test and then compensate the aperture accordingly.

ISO 50
Aperture range: f/5.6 – 11

ISO 100
Aperture range: ƒ/8 to 16

ISO 200
Aperture range: ƒ/11 to 22

It’s highly recommended that you’re using ISO 100, which makes your correct aperture will be somewhere between ƒ/8 and ƒ/16. As I mentioned earlier, watch the first few explosions of the fireworks show in the camera’s preview. You don’t want the exposure to wash out the colors of the red, blue and green bursts. They should appear clearly, but they should show their actual color rather than wash out to a yellow/clear tone.

Riverfire Fireworks
River Festival Fireworks, Brisbane – Australia (ISO 100 at f/16 and 8 secs)

5. Always use the lowest ISO setting & Highest Quality Setting

In the digital world; long exposures, higher ISO settings, and even higher temperatures can introduce noise into your digital photographs. You can’t avoid long exposures when shooting fireworks, but you can always choose a lower ISO setting.

By choosing a high Quality-setting you will reduce the amount of compression applied to your images. Less compression means fewer image artifacts and ultimately better image quality.

6. Bring extra batteries & memory cards

Have backup batteries in the event that your primary batteries give out during the show. Also don’t get so excited in the beginning that you fill your card before the grand finale. A good finale will produce peak light, color, and excitement. So make sure you have ample storage space available. Also make sure that your batteries have enough power to photograph the finale.

That’s it ! Good luck and enjoy the show…

Submitted by James ( @ 01.07.05

8 Responses to “Tips to Shoot Fireworks”

  1. joji jacob says:

    helpful tips…..i could leanr the basic priciples….thanks a lot

  2. Arjun says:

    thank you, extremely useful…!

  3. lasso says:

    I managed to shoot some decent fireworks pictures using your tips.

    Thanks a lot. 🙂

  4. ronny says:

    I am a newbie trying to shoot firework using DSLR
    ONly try aperture priority mode, normall set F8 ISO 100, cam on tripod
    Than I agar agar press the shutter button when I see the “fire shooting” up, sometime I can catch the pic but sometime not 🙁
    So guru, if set manual, when do u fire the shutter?

  5. photographe la rochelle says:

    this technical picture is still valid. I did not know how to do this kind of photography. But by following your advice, it works fine. Thank you for sharing this.

  6. Jessica says:

    Thanks for posting this. It’s always a good trick to know how to expose for fireworks.

  7. Nancy Young says:

    Oh, I like the fireworks 🙂 It’s quite difficult pursuit to shoot them, even if you have a tripod. Thank you for a useful article, I’ll follow your tips nex time!

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