How to Shoot Fireworks

March 12, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Photographing fireworks can be both fun and frustrating. A good fireworks photo requires a longer exposure time so hand holding your camera will not work. You will need the right equipment such as:

  • DSLR camera, Mirrorless Camera or Point and Shoot camera that allows you to change ISO, aperture and shutter speed.
  • Sturdy tripod.
  • Remote shutter release.

Never use a flash when photographing fireworks. Your camera settings will control the light needed. You also do not want to touch the camera when releasing the shutter as it will cause some camera shake. Since you will have a longer exposure time the camera shake will blur your image. This is why you need a remote shutter release.

For best results set your camera to Manual mode (M on most cameras). This way you can control all of the settings. Turn off any vibration reduction on your lens or in your camera. You will be on a tripod and if left on the camera will try to detect any vibration and since there is none it will create some minor vibration and cause a blur. Make sure all vibration controls are turned off both on the lens or inside your camera.

Next set your shutter speed to bulb. This will allow you to control your shutter speed. Bulb is found when you turn your shutter speed to the maximum time, it is the last choice on shutter speed.

Setting your aperture comes next. This is referred to as f-stop. Aperture controls the amount of light coming into the lens through the "hole" in the lens. For very bright fireworks you want your aperture to be set high. Typically f11 to f22 depending on the intensity of the fireworks.

ISO is another setting that controls the amount of light hitting the sensor. Fireworks are bright, and even though fireworks occur during the night, you will want a "daytime" setting for your ISO. This would be an ISO of 100 or 200.

Now that you have your camera setting all set and your camera on a tripod make sure your lens is set to manual focus. Look through your viewfinder and choose the focal length that is best for what you want to accomplish. Focus on your foreground. This could be any subject on the ground (or reaching up in the air) that is low but in front of the fireworks. Once you do this all you need to do now is wait for the show to start.

Once the fireworks begin you will press your remote shutter release button and time yourself. Typically 2 to 10 seconds is enough. Watch the fireworks and press your shutter release for 2 to 10 seconds over and over. When you see the grand finale of the fireworks show you may want to decrease your aperture to f22 to allow less light in and hopefully not blow out your exposure. Grand finale's are very bright and you will also lessen the exposure time (shutter release time) to about 2 to 3 seconds.  If you do this and press your shutter release over and over after each 2 to 3 second cycle you can stack your photos in post production (Photoshop) to create the Grand Finale.

Here are some fireworks examples.

Red, Blue and GreenRed, Blue and GreenOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This fireworks shot was taken at f11, ISO 200, with an 8 second exposure (shutter) time.

All RedAll RedOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This fireworks shot was taken with a f22 aperture, ISO 200 and a 10 second shutter speed (exposure time).

Grand Fianle MergeGrand Fianle MergeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This photo has some over exposed areas (very bright white where you cannot make out the detail) and was taken during the finale. Two photos are merged together to create one photo. Settings were ISO 200, f22 and 3 second exposure time for each merged photo. Note that even with the higher aperture (f22) and shorter exposure time (3 seconds) the results still have over blown areas. This is very tricky when it comes to shooting very bright fireworks. 


No comments posted.