Tips on Photographing Fireworks

Is it your first time shooting photos of fireworks? Whether you’re using a DSLR or a point-and-shoot, check out these tips for the best exposures!

1. Always use tripod (& camera remote control/cable release)

To be able to capture these kind of shots, you’ll need some long exposure times ( 4-10 secs) – Something you’ll definitely need a tripod for.   There’s just no way you can hold your camera for that long without significant movement. The remote shutter release is used to ensure that you won’t have to physically touch the shutter release – eliminating the possibility of camera shake.  A typical example of camera shake during a long exposure is shown below.



2. Your Focus Setting

If you have a point and shoot digital camera, try to set your camera to landscape mode (which typically designated by an icon illustrating a small mountain range).  This will set your lens to “infinity focus,” freeing you from any focusing issues.

If you have a DSLR camera, then it’s better if you set your camera to M (manual) mode to manually set your lens to infinity focus.

3. Your Exposure Setting

There are no exact rules for your exposure settings; shorter exposures don’t always capture the full burst and longer exposures tend to produce washed-out results. The beauty of Digital cameras is that you can always check your picture before deciding the next exposure setting to get a better picture. My first fireworks picture is always set at ISO 100 at f/16 and 8 secs – I adjust the shutter speed from that point.

If you have a B (Bulb) shutter speed setting you can use it to control exactly how long your shutter is open. The trick is to open the shutter right at the beginning of the burst and close it when it reaches its peak.  You may want to bring a gobo (I will tear the cardboard off a legal pad) to cover the lens when in Bulb mode. You can remove the GOBO when a burst occurs, cover, remove, cover and add different explosions to one exposure……play around with your creative side!

Using one of the suggested apertures listed below, you can use your preview to test and then compensate the aperture accordingly.

ISO 50
Aperture range: f/5.6 – 11

ISO 100
Aperture range: ƒ/8 to 16

ISO 200
Aperture range: ƒ/11 to 22

An ISO of 100 is highly recommended, as it ensures the highest image quality.  With an ISO of 100, your correct aperture will likely be somewhere between ƒ/8 and ƒ/16. As I mentioned earlier, watch the first few fireworks in the camera’s preview. You don’t want the exposure to wash out the colors of the red, blue and green bursts. They should appear clearly, but they should show their actual color rather than wash out to a yellow/clear tone.

4. Always use the lowest ISO setting & Highest Quality Setting

In the digital world; long exposures, higher ISO settings, and even higher temperatures can introduce noise into your digital photographs. You can’t avoid long exposures when shooting fireworks, but you can always choose a lower ISO setting.

By choosing a high Quality-setting you will reduce the amount of compression applied to your images. Less compression means fewer image artifacts and ultimately better image quality.  Shoot RAW is your camera alows.

5. Bring extra batteries &  memory cards

Have backup batteries in the event that your primary batteries give out during the show.  Also don’t get so excited in the beginning that you fill your card before the grand finale. A good finale will produce peak light, color, and excitement. So make sure you have ample storage space available. Also make sure that your batteries have enough power to photograph the finale.

That’s it ! Good luck and enjoy the show…


Thanks to Ed Overstreet from the Spartanburg Photography Guild for These Great Tips!

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