5 tips for shooting fireworks (with your camera)
Shooting fireworks can be tough, but it doesn't have to be. This year make sure you have the skills to get it right. Here are 5 tips for capturing amazing firework images:
1) Use a longer shutter speed. You want a shutter speed between 1 and 10 seconds. The longer your shutter speeds the longer the trails from the fireworks will be. If you want shorter trails, shorten the shutter speed. If you want longer ones, increase the shutter speed. There are a few ways to accomplish this on your camera. First, you can shoot in full manual mode if you are comfortable with that. If not, turn your mode dial to Shutter priority (TV) on Canon and (S) on Nikon. This mode will let you set the shutter speed yourself, but the camera will do the rest of the work. This is great for beginners.
2) Get a Tripod. To use slower shutter speeds in the seconds, you will need a tripod. You cannot hold your camera steady enough to get a clear image without a tripod. The more rigid your tripod is, the less chance of getting camera shake and motion blur in you images. If you need to get a new tripod, we know of a great place.
3) Focus to infinity (or almost to infinity). Focusing will be hard at night. Your camera will struggle and you will be frustrated. Instead use manual focus. If your lens has a focus distance window, set the focus at the infinity mark. Depending on how close you are to the fireworks, you may need to set it slightly closer than infinity. Best practice is to use live view and once the first few fireworks are shot off, use the live view screen to manually focus on them. Then leave the focus on manual for the rest of the show.
4) Use a smaller aperture. Apertures like f8 or f11 will increase the depth of field and help get the entire firework in focus. Remember, a firework is usually a sphere expanding out in all directions. If it expands 50 feet in diameter when you are watching it, that means it is also expanding out 50 feet front to back. You will need a deeper depth of field to capture this much distance. A smaller aperture will also help if you are slightly off on your focus.
5) Frame up your shot with an interesting silhouette. Firework images seem to be a little more interesting if there is another element in the image. Find a tree, bridge, or building to put in the foreground. This will add more visual interest into the image and make it more impactful.
As always, have fun and be safe. Fireworks are still explosions and should always be treated with caution. Also, don't forget to get out from behind the camera too. I try to spend half of the time shooting photography, but then put the camera away and enjoy the display with those sharing the moment around you.