How to Photograph Fireworks
Wow it's July 2015 already. Something that happens here in Tempe, Arizona is there is a FANTASTIC fireworks display. For years I tried to capture them and many times I failed. Now I know what it takes to get amazing fireworks. It's pretty much foolproof. Here's what you need to know.
1. Use a Tripod:
This is very important because you will need to eliminate all of the camera movement. To shoot fireworks you need to shoot long shutter speeds. if you don't have a tripod your fireworks will end up with squiggly jagged lines instead of nice sharp straight lines.
2. Use a Cable Release:
Even if you have your camera secure on a tripod, without a cable release, you are still probably going to get movement when you push the shutter button. A cable release plugs into your camera and lets you release the shutter without actually touching the camera. Even the smallest touch to your camera will cause slight vibration and result in squiggly lines in your photo. A cable release will ensure your camera is absolutely steady.
3. Use a Wide Angle Lens:
A 16-35mm or 16-105mm are great lenses to shoot fireworks. Wide angle lenses are great because when the fireworks go off you don't usually know exactly where they are going to explode. The wide angle lets you frame a larger area in the sky and you're more likely to actually get the fireworks in your frame. Once you have an idea where the fireworks are landing in the sky you can zoom in a little or frame some nice foreground elements in your picture. Lakes make awesome shots because you get great reflections.
4. Focus Just Shy of Infinity:
You might wonder why you don't shoot at infinity...Well thats because at night your autofocus just isn't going to work when you're aiming into the sky. To do this you must put your lens on manual focus. To get a nice sharp image you should focus your lens all the way to infinity and then bring it back just short of infinity.
5. Shoot in Manual Mode:
Putting your camera in manual mode works best because you're shooting at night and aiming at the sky so your auto exposure isn't going to work either.
6. Shoot Aperture around f10:
Since you're in manual mode you will need to set your aperture to the correct value. Start at about f10 and then check and adjust. If things look too bright go up to maybe f16 and if it's too dark you might adjust to f8.
7. Use a Slow Shutter Speed:
Remember you're in manual mode so you also need to set your shutter speed. Long shutter speeds like between 3-6 seconds work well. You need enough time to capture the fireworks burst when they start and stay open long enough to get the full burst. If your camera has a bulb mode...even better. Bulb mode lets you click the shutter and hold it open as long as you hold it. When you let go it will close the shutter. So when the fireworks start to go up you hold the shutter open until the firework starts to trail off then you let go to close it.
8. Shoot at ISO100:
Yes it's dark out but when shooting fireworks you don't want to raise your ISO to compensate because the fireworks are going to be very bright and you don't want to overexpose them while you keep everything else dark. So shooting at a low ISO of 100 or maybe 200 works best.
If you follow these tips you're pretty much guaranteed to capture some amazing fireworks photos.
Happy 4th of July and Happy Shooting