Photographing Fireworks

The Fourth of July is nearly here and I saw some tips online that seem trustworthy. I’ve shot fireworks very successfully in the past with my own techniques. This year if we see them I’d rather just enjoy them more with my family. But here are some tips if you’re curious (William Yu).

  1. Use tripod to secure the camera.
  2. Set the camera to Manual mode.
  3. Since fireworks will be at infinity(focal distance), set aperture to F8 or F11 to obtain the best optical quality of the lens.
  4. Set shutter speed about 2-8 seconds. Opening the shutter too long will cause over-exposure of fireworks.
  5. Use a cable release to minimize the camera shake.
  6. Set the focus mode on the lens to manual, and set the focus ring to infinity. Thus, avoiding the “focus hunting” in auto focus mode.
  7. Try both telephoto and wide-angle lenses, use telephoto will isolate a single or a cluster of fireworks, use wide-angle to include the cityscape or other interesting background.
  8. If you listen for the “thump” of the really large canons shooting the bigger fireworks, you can count to 2 or 3 before they burst. Get the timing right and click shortly before the fireworks go off (pointing at the right region obviously) to get the maximum exposure time with bursting fireworks in it.
  9. Many fireworks shots you see are composites of multiple shots. So unless you have gone to a real mega-event where they have the money to really fill the sky, don’t be shy about compositing shots together. At smaller local displays you will probably be close and therefore shooting steeply upwards against the dark sky. This allows for very easy cut out and paste combinations of shots.

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