Tips for Shooting Fireworks
Summer is already moving quickly…. Before we know it, July will be here – which means getting ready for the 4th of July! If you’re like me, part of the planning on what we do that day is driven by my desire to get good photos of the fireworks. If you haven’t done this before it may seem a little complicated, but it really isn’t!
Anyone can take great fireworks photos with a few simple things. You will need your camera, a sturdy tripod, and preferably a shutter release cable – this will reduced camera shake by not having to touch your camera. Also, make sure to charge your batteries… and if you’re like me, an empty memory card or an extra one – I tend to take tons of firework photos in an attempt to get a few good ones.
One of the most important things is finding a good location. We live in Florida and are lucky to be able to view the fireworks over the ocean or the bay. If you have a great view of a city, waterway or trees, you might want to include this in your photos. If you’ll be in a large crowd or just don’t want anything but fireworks in your photo, that works too! Just make sure you are able to set up somewhere where your camera won’t be tipped over, or that you aren’t in a pathway where someone will trip over your tripod. We don’t want injuries to others, or your gear!
The lens that you use is really a personal choice. If you are further away or want a tight crop of the fireworks, go for a zoom lens. If you have a great foreground/background, you might want a wider lens. When in doubt, I usually go for the wider option and then crop the photo if I feel that it needs it. This is always much better than getting home and viewing your photos and wishing you had more space around your subject.
As for settings… you want to go with a low ISO – around 100 or 200. Next, make sure that your flash is off. I usually shoot fireworks in Manual mode… it might sound like this is going to get tricky, but trust me on this one! You’ll want to set your aperture around f/8, then set your focus on your lens to infinity – you won’t be able to focus in the dark, and this will make sure you get everything in focus.
You’ll want to set your shutter speed for somewhere between 2 – 4 seconds. You can also experiment with this to find what works best, or depending on how much ambient light you have, you might want to put your camera in bulb mode to be able to capture a longer exposure and shut your shutter when you want instead of on a set time.
I usually start with the 2 seconds and then see if I captured what I was looking for, and then adjust from there – sometimes up to 5 seconds depending on the ambient light. If you’re close enough to hear the launch of the fireworks – which is personally one of my favorite things – then you can time your shutter to the launch to be able to capture them in the air. I don’t think there’s a science to this – more just trial and error. Everyone’s situation will be different, so you will have to make adjustments until you find something you like then just continue to shoot.
I switch to bulb mode for the finale to try and get multiple fireworks in one shot. You can also edit and combine your photos at home in Photoshop to get a collage effect like I’ve done here.
Hope you have a wonderful 4th and get beautiful firework photos. Don’t forget to take a moment and remember why we celebrate! =)
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