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Your First Seven Fireworks Photo Tips

4th of July 1

Getting great (or even good) photos of fireworks can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to help the amateur or semi-professional photographer get started with success. All photographers know that photography is an art. These should help you with the basics.
4th of July 1

  1. Use a Tripod
    Since you’ll be using longer shutter speeds it is crucial to have your camera secured. You want to capture the movement of the fireworks, not the camera.
  2. Don’t Touch!
    Again, keeping everything on the camera end steady is crucial, so invest in whatever remote release device is available for your camera. If you don’t touch it, you won’t cause the image to jiggle.
  3. Simplify your Settings
    As you experiment and develop expertise you may find tricks that work for you, but a good place to start is…
    1. No “Auto” — shoot in manual mode
    2. Aperture — don’t make the “bigger is better” mistake; start somewhere around f/8 to f/16
    3. Shutter Speed — You want a good long exposure. Hold down the shutter from the “first of the burst” to the end of the effect. Typically, your shutter will be open for a few seconds. On the other hand, don’t assume that you can keep the shutter open indefinitely. Unless you’re shooting a single burst, you could easily get an over-exposure.
    4. Focal Length — better wider; that’s why God invented cropping
    5. ISO — 100 should work well.
    6. No Flash (don’t think you can light a fireworks burst – it is its own light against the black sky!4th of July 3
  4. Take a lot of shots
    There are lots of variables, and it can seem like a game of chance. Improve your odds by “placing lots of bets.”
  5. Have the wind at your Back
    If the wind is blowing toward you, you’ll likely wind up with a lot of pictures of smoke, and a few pictures of smoky fireworks.
  6. Setup your shots early
    Get to the venue and pre-focus on the area of the sky where the fireworks will burst. You may have to make some adjustment once the show starts, but you don’t want to spend the first few minutes of the show trying to get your basic focus in place.
  7. For a more memorable shot, include a frame of reference
    Folks on vacation don’t take pictures of each other in the hotel room. Let your picture tell the story of not only how beautiful the fireworks are, but where the show is, and what it’s all about. Include a skyline, some people in the foreground, a recognizable building, etc.

With good planning, the right equipment, and some luck, your first fireworks photos will be beauties, and you’ll be on your way to great shots in the future.