Firework Photography: Fireworks are a tricky subject to photograph–you’re shooting in the dark, your subject keeps moving and disappearing, and it’s hard to get a good location. Here’s how to get great photos despite it all.
1. Use a Tripod: It’ll be dark, so you’re going to need to use a long exposure. Because of this, any slight movements will result in a blurry photo. In order to capture these fireworks in crisp motionless clarity you’re going to need a tripod to keep your camera steady.
2. Set the Shutter Speed to ‘Bulb’: In order to capture the true essence of the fireworks display, you’ll want to try and capture the motion of the firework traveling through and exploding in the sky. As a result, a long exposure will be needed. However, because fireworks are spontaneous, it’s tricky to guess just how long to keep the shutter open for. Using the ‘Bulb’ setting is an easy way to get around this problem. Represented by the letter ‘b’, the bulb setting will hold the shutter open for as long as you have your finger on the button. Press the shutter button just prior to the firework being shot into the sky, and release it when the explosion begins to fade away. This way you’ll have the control to capture only the light that you want to.
3. Use a Small Aperture: Despite the night sky, fireworks displays are deceptively bright. Because of this, using a large aperture could cause your photo to be overexposed, or the light trail of the fireworks to be too powerful. The smaller aperture helps to control the brightness of the fireworks and ensure that the colours and light isn’t overpowering, as well as helping to maintain the exposure of your photo. If you’re a long way from the fireworks then I suggest using an aperture of F8, and if you’re close to the action use a smaller aperture of around F16.
4. Use Manual Focus: Due to the dark sky and the speed of the firework, it’s nearly impossible to focus your shot automatically. Thus, a manual focus is required. Depending on the distance you are from the fireworks, you might like to try infinity focus to ensure you capture the whole scene in clarity.
5. Keep the ISO Low : Using a lower ISO will allow for a cleaner image, and will also help to prevent the bright, powerful firework explosions from overpowering your image. An ISO of around 100 should do the job.
6. Turn the Flash Off : Due to the distance of the fireworks, your flash won’t do anything. All that it will do is light up the objects close to you, and having a person’s back or a tree well lit could potentially ruin your photo.
7. Use a Remote : If you’ve got a remote, now’s the time to use it. Because we’re using the ‘Bulb’ setting, we’re going to need our finger on the shutter for quite a long time, but any movements, knocks, or even the process of pressing and releasing the button could cause a blurry photo. The remote will allow you to have full control over the shutter without running the risk of moving your camera.
8. Be Ready to Shoot Early: As the fireworks display goes on, the sky will become riddled with smoke. This can become annoying when you’re trying to capture the crisp clean colours of the fireworks. To get around this problem, it’s best to be prepared early, with your camera and equipment set up to capture even the first firework.
9. Framing Your Shot: Try portrait, try landscape, try shooting directly at the sky, try zooming in, try a wide angle shot, try just about everything. The fireworks don’t necessarily have to be the feature of your shot. If the display is over a lake or a bridge, be sure to include it. Perhaps even try and include silhouettes of people. Alternatively, aim to capture the fine details of the fireworks. Zoom right in so that you can see the colours and the smokey tail of the explosion. Perhaps even point the camera directly at the sky. Experiment with all the angles and focal lengths possible, keeping in mind that the most beautiful fireworks photographs are the ones featuring the scenes around them.
10. Bring a Black Sheet or Cap: A black sheet or cap can be very handy when you’re trying to capture multiple fireworks explosions in a single shot. As soon as the first explosion is finished, cover the lens of the camera with the black object. This will allow you to keep your shutter open, without letting in any light. As soon as the next firework is launched, remove the black object and allow the light to pass through the lens.