Tips for Fireworks Photography
With Independence Day celebrations taking place in the coming days, here are some tips for making the most out of your short time behind the camera to photograph fireworks…
1) Do NOT try to hand-hold your camera, do NOT use a flash
2) For best results, find a location where you will see the fireworks bursting over a recognizable landmark, such as the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, the New York skyline, the St. Louis Arch, the Eiffel Tower, or the Golden Gate Bridge. If you can also find a body of water that reflects the glow of the fireworks in the sky, even better!
3) Use a camera with an adjustable zoom lens, such as a 70-200 mm, that lets you go quickly wide to get the whole scene, or lets you zoom in on a burst.
4) Use a camera with adjustable F stops and shutter speeds, and a Manual setting that allows you to vary the shutter speed. Put camera on manual focus
5) Place your camera on a strong, tall, sturdy tripod and attach a cable release or use a remote sensor to trigger your shutter. All of this contributes to the sharpness of your photos. Bring a flashlight so that you can see your controls.
6) Before the fireworks display begins, practice shooting on Manual mode to get the right combination of shutter speed and F stop for nice twilight shots of the scene. Use Manual Focus, not Autofocus, aimed at the distant landmark.
7) Set the white balance to Auto, or Cloudy Mode, set your ISO to 400
8) Set your camera on Manual mode, set it for continuous or rapid shooting, set the F stop at F11 or f 16 for maximum sharpness of the bursts. When the first burst occurs, shoot it at 1 second, try the next one at 2 seconds, the next one at 3 seconds, the next ones at varying speeds of 5 to 10 seconds.
9) Open your aperture to F5.6 and try shooting at ½ second and ¼ second to get tighter bursts as they explode in the sky. Try Tungsten/Incandescent or Fluorescent White Balance modes for color variations.
10) Place your camera on the Bulb setting in Manual Mode and cover the lens with a piece of dark cardboard. Leave the shutter open for a full minute or two while covering and uncovering the lens with the cardboard, in order to get multiple bursts in the same frame. Again, be sure to use Manual focus.
11) For really wild and crazy shots, take the camera OFF the tripod, shutter open for 2 seconds, and wave it in circles while pointing at the fireworks!