Tutorial #3: Shooting Fireworks

posted in: Tutorials | 0

Introduction: Fourth of July is right around the corner, so obviously that means fireworks and the photographing of said fireworks…There a few things you need to know to shoot some fireworks photos like these:
Fireworks 01  
Supplies: The first and most important thing you need (other than a camera) is a sturdy tripod, and a good location to shoot. If it’s a big public fireworks show you’ll want to do some research on exactly where the fireworks will be and arrive extra early to get a good spot. For SLRs the lens you choose will depend on your location. If you are shooting from afar then you can use a telephoto lens. If you are up close or want shots that include the surrounding landscape you might want to opt for more of a wide angle. If you’re shooting on an SLR you can purchase a remote shutter release so you can shoot without creating any camera shake. Otherwise, you can just use the timer function on the camera – of course this gives you less control of when you can start an exposure because of the wait time.
Shooting: Once you have properly planned your location and are all set up, you’ll need to adjust your camera’s settings. Manual settings (M) are really the only way to shoot good fireworks photos, so check to see that your camera allows for the following settings.
A low ISO, such as 100 is ideal coupled with a slow shutter speed of 2 seconds. On an SLR, if you use a remote shutter, you can opt to set it to bulb and you determine how long you leave the shutter open. This may be useful if you want to suddenly close the shutter and take a new exposure because something more interesting has just popped up. Either way, 2 seconds is a good amount of time to capture a firework from the explosion to the time it disperses.
You will also want to set  your camera/lens to manual focus. Focusing on infinity will work on some lenses, or you can wait for one of the fireworks to go off, try to auto-focus on it and then switch the lens to manual focus to lock it. Just be sure to not accidentally change the focus later.
The trick is to listen for the firework pops as a sign to start your exposure and end it when the sparks have dispersed. Practicing with different start times for the exposure might give you some interesting results…


This is what happens if you press the shutter right when the burst is almost done dispersing.

It might take a bit of practice, but following these tips will give you the fundamentals for shooting some great fireworks shots.

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