World Class Fireworks
Do you have a digital camera and want to learn how to photograph fireworks?
July 4th is fast approaching, here are a few tips to help you capture great shots with a DSLR camera.
1. Use the Right Equipment
You will need a tripod and a remote shutter release. The tripod is necessary to keep the camera still since the shutter will be open so long. Using a remote release will be very helpful so you don’t have to hold the shutter release down directly on the camera. This helps because every time you press or release the button, your camera will move a tiny bit and that will make the result blurry.
If you don’t have a remote shutter release you can use the timer setting on your camera. This will be more difficult since you then must anticipate when the fireworks will go off.
2. Set Up Early
You’ll want to get to the location early and find a good position to shoot from. Finding a spot in a higher location would be ideal. Make sure to avoid other spectators moving through the shot.
Make sure the horizon is even from the moment you put it on the tripod, especially if you are shooting to get more of the landscape in the frame.
Choose if you want to shoot vertical or horizontal. Shooting horizontal is great if you want the landscape to be in the picture, or if you want more than one burst per shot. Shooting vertically will have less fireworks in the shot, but you might be able to catch more motion in the firework.
You will likely be looking at the sky more than through your viewfinder, so make sure you know what part of the sky is in the frame.
3. Camera Settings
Focal length: Having your camera focused on the right part of the sky can be tricky. Using a longer focal length to get tightly cropped shots can make this more difficult, but it will leave you with some great shots.
A zoom lens would be a good lens to use so that you have multiple options for shooting. If you do use the shorter focal length, remember you can always crop it tight in post.
Aperture: Since fireworks are so bright an aperture at f/8 to f/16 will work reasonably well.
Shutter Speed: The best setting for your shutter speed is likely to be bulb. It allows the shutter to stay open if you are holding the button down (preferably using a remote shutter release).
If you want just one burst in the shot, open the shutter right before the firework explodes and leave it open until it’s finished exploding (this should just be a few seconds).
Avoid the temptation to leave the shutter open too long, since it’s dark it might seem like leaving the shutter open won’t affect the exposure to much, but nearby bursts in the same part of the sky can quickly overexpose the shot.
ISO: Use the lowest ISO possible, 100 or 200 should be fine.
Flash: Switch off the flash, it will trick the camera into wanting a shorter shutter speed. Unless you want something in the foreground to be lit, you should avoid using a flash.
Manual mode: Shooting in manual is the best option for low light. Auto focus won’t work very well in low light situations. Manually focus on something near where the fireworks will be, while it’s still light outside. There’s no need to try and focus directly on the fireworks since you’re using a small aperture the depth of field will be increased.
4. Experiment and Track Results
Check the shots occasionally, not after each one (because you’ll miss some shots that way) but check every so often.
Experiment with the shots, try silhouettes, different perspectives or get a shot of people watching the fireworks.
You can use a piece of black cardboard to help: Set the camera to bulb, hold the cardboard a few inches from the lens and open the shutter using the remote release. Move the cardboard away when you’re ready to start the exposure and move it back when you’re ready to end it. Leave the shutter open a couple more seconds before closing it with the remote. What this will do is help to keep your camera steady.
Get your equipment ready, Independence Day will get here fast!
- Use a tripod
- Use a remote shutter release
- Shoot in the highest quality file, NEF if you can
- Keep the ISO low
- Set your camera to Bulb
- Start with the aperture at f/8 to f/16
- Manually focus the lens set at infinity
Here are a few examples of some great firework photography taken at our World Class Shoot Off!