The 4th of July is just around the corner and if you are like me, you are looking forward to watching the fireworks with your family and having a good time. But, if you are reading this article, you are also looking for tips how to photograph fireworks.
1. Use the Fireworks as your Flash
Keep in mind that when shooting fireworks, you will be in the dark and then the fireworks are going to be a brilliant source of light, much like a flash. As Fireworks explode into the air, they will often light up the surrounding area, so you will want to make sure that your frame is not so tight that you miss the surrounding scene. I have made the mistake of just having a great picture of fireworks, with nothing else in the picture… It was time wasted and I would not recommend it. Find something of interest to be in the background or foreground to add an element of depth and interest.
2. You really need a Tripod and Remote Shutter Release
When doing any kind of timed exposure, you really should use a tripod for stability, otherwise your images will not be crisp and in focus. Triggering the shutter with a remote shutter release is a great way to reduce camera shake as well. If there is wind, you may consider hanging a sandbag or camera bag from the center of your tripod.
3. Time your shots with the fireworks show
Professional fireworks shows should have a rhythm that they will follow, many times this is set to music. While this is important, what you want to be looking for is the streak of sparks headed for the skies. Once you see that a mortar has fired, open your shutter. Once the mortar explodes, give it a second or two before closing your shutter, this will capture some of the great streaks and bursts of light.
4. Shoot in Manual Mode
If you are not comfortable shooting in manual mode, then it is time to break out of your comfort zone. If your camera has a timed exposure setting, I would experiment at night with an aperture of about f/8 and ISO of 100 to start and then find out how long you need to have the shutter open for a decent exposure at your location. You will be able to do this just a couple of minutes before the fireworks show start. Keep in mind that even though the sun goes down, the lighting will most likely get a little darker between sundown and the start of the fireworks. Be ready by the time the fireworks start.
5. Scout the area prior to the fireworks display.
There is nothing worse than figuring out that you don’t have a good vantage point for the fireworks and then you miss the best part of the show. Make sure that you allow yourself plenty of time to get to your location and find the best vantage point. Many times, fireworks displays are going to draw lots of people, most of which could care less that you are trying to get pictures. Claim your territory and try to eliminate people standing directly in front of you by using parking garages, bodies of water, etc…
6. Take pictures during sunset before the sun sets
One of the best ways to make sure that you have the right focus and have your shot framed correctly is to shoot the scene in daylight. I prefer to shoot buildings as the sun is setting because many times, you have enough light to see the building’s colors and you also have the lights of the building. This is useful later in post processing if you want to do some blending of the exposures.
7. The start of the fireworks show is usually the best time for photographs
If you think that you should save the best for last, then you probably haven’t shot many fireworks shows. As the show continues, the smoke in the air will likely gather into small clouds that can affect your shot. Try to get as many shots at the beginning of the fireworks show in order to make sure that you get some nice clean shots without a bunch of smoke hanging around.
I hope that you have found this tutorial helpful on how to photograph fireworks. As we celebrate our Independence Day on the this 4th of July, please remember to thank those who have served our Country.