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June 18, 2012 / GreenMan

Tips for Fireworks Photography

Light Em’ Up!

Summer is here and that means you will most likely be viewing some spectacular fireworks displays for the holidays, sporting events, corporate parties, etc. Want to make your friends, co-workers, and hard to impress grandchildren tell you that you’re  the most talented photographer they’ve ever seen? Well, break out your camera, because I’m about to tell you some easy tricks to capturing the best photos during any fireworks show.

1) NO FLASHING. Make sure the flash on your camera is off and remains off during the show. This may seem obvious to most of you, but it must be said, because believe it or not some people get so caught up with the pretty lights that they forget this important step. (Don’t be embarrassed, it happens to the best of us)

2) STAY STILL. Let the fireworks do the moving, not you. Since you will want to be using longer shutter speeds (we’ll get to that in a second) to really capture the movement of the light, you will want to put you camera on a tripod so as not to pick up any movement that is not part of the show. You may also want to invest in a wireless trigger or enable the timer on your camera, so it will shoot remotely, making sure there is no extra camera movement.

3) MANUAL MODE. Last time I checked, no camera had a “Brilliant Fireworks Capture” mode. When it is dark outside, cameras have a hard time auto-focusing, which means even if you plan out a perfect shot, your camera could ruin it if it is left on any Auto setting. Manually set up your exposure and focus modes before the show begins, take a few test shots, and then try not to change it too much during the display, as it takes a lot of time and you might miss the action.

4) SHOOT WIDE. CROP LATER. For the best view, line up your camera level with the horizon and shoot with a wider focal length, rather than a tighter one. This way, you can get the full effect. Then if you’d like to get fancy and have a close up or more abstract view, you can crop the photos when editing.

5) SHUTTER SPEED. The more photographers you talk to, the more they will tell you that shutter speed is crucial when shooting fireworks. Some of the best results may come from setting your camera to “Bulb Mode”, giving you complete control over how long the shutter stays open. Just be careful to not leave it open too long. Fireworks are very bright and it is easy to over expose them. A great place to start? Try hitting the shutter as the firework initially bursts, and hold it for about three seconds until it starts to fade. Along with shutter speed, make sure your aperture is somewhere between an f/7 to an f/16. (You may want to experiment with this to see what you like best)

6) GET LOW. A low ISO setting is best for getting a nice clean image. Again, fireworks are bright, so to avoid any unwanted noise in your image, try a setting around 100.

7) KEEP SHOOTING. Don’t stress yourself out too much during the show by checking every individual shot and messing around with settings. Instead, just keep shooting throughout the whole show, checking your framing occasionally to make sure you are still on target. Bring multiple memory cards and have them ready to go, so you can take way more shots than you will need. Also, give yourself time to enjoy the show as well. Because even though photographs of fireworks are often awe-inspiring, it doesn’t beat seeing them in real life. : )

8) PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT. Like I always say, the more you practice, the better you will become with any photography or filmmaking skill. So pack up your loved ones, grab a bucket of chicken and some lemonade, and hit every fireworks display you can this summer! Check out your local community website for the best viewing spots for 4th of July and Labor Day. Evening baseball games are also a good bet for some amazing fireworks shows.

Follow these few tips to get the best results and set your fireworks pictures far above the others. Best of luck, be safe, and happy summer!




Leave a Comment
  1. Greg / Jun 19 2012 7:24 PM

    Great Tips!! I never would have thought to turn on manual. I will try that this year. Thanks!

  2. videoproductionguy / Jun 25 2012 6:07 PM

    Thanks GreenMan, just because I work at a studio in LA ( everyone in my family assumes “I am the man”, when it comes to everything about pictures. When I give advice I always forget something, I am going to give this article in everyone in my family. Thanks for laying things out so clearly. The post almost seems that you know my family.

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