How To Photograph Fireworks

Ok peeps, have you ever wanted to capture fireworks so you can enjoy them again and again? Despite your best efforts, do your photos always come out blurry? Well, here I am to shed a little light on the subject.

I realize that we are only in the first part of December, but January 1 is pretty much right around the corner. Many cities celebrate the coming of the New Year by setting off fireworks displays. Get your cameras and tripods, it’s time to get some practice in.

One thing that is especially abundant this time of year are Christmas lights. They actually provide a perfect medium for getting things dialed in on your DSLR. Really, there are only a couple differences between snapping pictures of Christmas lights and taking shots of fireworks; motion and elevation. Stationary light displays are far easier to shoot, but the concept is still the same. Also, most light displays are limited to the tallest tree, or the highest peak of a roofline.

The beauty of using a DSLR is that you will have instant confirmation that you are on the right track. You don’t need to wait to develop film, so the learning curve with taking pics of fireworks is actually quite steep.

Here is a simple numbered checklist to follow:

1. Use a Tripod

You’ll be using longer shutter speeds and the reason why your photos always turn out blurry is because it is nearly impossible to hold a camera perfectly still for the whole exposure.

2. Remote Release

You can always use the timer on your camera to save yourself some scratch, but why would you want to have to keep setting the stupid thing? Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to press a button whenever you’d like to snap a photo? Most cameras have the capability of adding a remote that allows you to control the shutter on demand. Do yourself a favor and invest in this accessory, you’ll be glad that you did.

3. Frame Your Shot

This is much easier with Christmas lights since they are stationary. You already know that fireworks can be relatively unpredictable, but that is precisely what makes it fun. Scope out your location beforehand, watch your horizons, and pick a vertical or horizontal orientation for your camera and stick with it. In my experience, vertical tends to yield better results for fireworks.

4. Focal Length

This is probably the most difficult aspect of firework photography. You simply don’t know where to focus. Try to get a feel for where fireworks are commonly breaking and focus on that area of the display.

5. Aperture

The misconception is that you need a fast lens to photograph fireworks. Actually, fireworks emit a significant amount of light, and mid to small range apertures tend to work best. Try to stick around f/8 to f/16 for best results.

6. Shutter Speed

A remote is what yields the best results. Switch your camera to “bulb mode.” This keeps the shutter open for as long as you hold down the release. Start holding the button as the firework is about to explode and hold it down until it’s finished exploding for maximum results.

7. ISO

Low ISO is best. Set your camera on 100 and forget it!

8. Turn Off Your Flash

There is no point to using it when you are snapping pics of fireworks. Besides, it only travels a few yards anyway, and if you are that close to the fireworks, you have other problems.

9. Manual Mode is Best

Autofocus seems easy, but I guarantee you’ll miss out on a lot of good pictures. Only when you change your focal length will you have to change your focus.

10. Experiment and Learn

Try new things. Maybe you’ll figure something out that is really cool.

That’s it for now. Let me know how it goes…

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