Get it right and photographs of fireworks can be really impressive. Shooting a dramatic black sky backdrop, filled with dazzling colours, will bring back special memories of a great night out in an instant. So to help you get the best results read our handy hints.
You can expect to be using slow shutter speeds of around 2 to10 seconds when photographing fireworks. And for such slow shutter speeds a tripod is a really important piece of kit as you won’t be able to keep your camera steady by simply hand holding your camera, which means you’ll end up with disappointingly blurry shots.
If possible position yourself at a right angle to the wind. This means that any smoke produced by the fireworks will be blown to one side and out of shot. When deciding where to stand, consider where the crowd will be as you don’t want everyone tripping over your tripod. If there’s an opportunity for including a recognisable landmark, or some water you can get reflections from, go for it.
If you’re a beginner, experiment with slow shutter speeds by manually setting your camera to something like F5.6 at 100 ISO for a 4 second exposure. You can then play around with smaller apertures and different exposure times until you get the results you want. Keeping a low ISO of 100 will give you better image quality and prevent image noise. If you can’t manually set the shutter speed on your camera, try using the night or fireworks setting.
Auto focus tends to really struggle to find things to focus on in this situation, so you’re much better off switching to manual focus. The higher F-settings such as F11 have a greater depth of field which will make focusing far easier, as so much more will be in focus than with a low F-number. Once you’re happy you’ve selected the right aperture you can keep it like this for the rest of the display.
There’s no way your flash can light up the entire sky so it’s going to have no effect on your photos, but will annoy the people around you who are trying to enjoy the display. Therefore it makes sense to set your camera to a non-flash setting.
A remote release is a good way of avoid unnecessary camera shake. It’s also a much better option than a self-timer which is normally great for long exposure shots, but as timing is everything with fireworks a self-timer would be a real hit or miss affair.
Find out roughly how long the display is schedules to go on for. This will give you a good idea of how quickly you’ll get through your memory cards, bearing in mind that they always save the best for last so you don’t want to run out of card space at the end of the show.
Tight shots of fireworks packed with colour look great, but getting the framing right involves developing an instinctive sense of timing and plenty of luck. So start with wider shots where you’ve got more chance of capturing all the action. You can of course play around on your computer to get that stunning cropped shot after the event.
By setting your camera to B or bulb mode, you can keep the shutter open for as long as you want by simply holding down the shutter. So hit the shutter button as soon as the firework goes off and hold it down until it’s finished. Again this is far more effective with a shutter release cable. To get really clever you can cover up the lens with a piece of black foam or card. You then remove the covering as the firework goes off and replace it in between bursts to get really impressive multiple firework bursts in one shot.