Taking beautiful pictures of fireworks doesn’t have to be difficult. Today you’re going to learn the top tips on how to photograph fireworks the right way to bring these amazing events to life like never before.
Forget taking pictures of fireworks with your smartphone or a cheap digital camera. It’s just not going to work. All your photographs will be blurry and the fireworks will look like splotches of color. For the right definition, exquisite detail, and beautiful clarity, you need to follow these steps on how to photograph fireworks.
To take the best photographs of fireworks, you need to know a bit about night photography. Because fireworks happen at night, it’s a bit different from taking photographs during the day. Night photography is one of the most challenging aspects of photography, and with the intense lights of the pyrotechnics added in, it’s even more difficult.
The Best Camera to Photograph Fireworks
You’ll need more than just the body of the camera though. One of the most important things to bring with you is a camera which uses an electronic cable release. Wired or wireless, it doesn’t matter. The less you touch the camera, the clearer your pictures will be, and an electronic cable release helps to keep the camera stable.
As for which lens you should use, anything wide-angle is great. This will help capture the grand scope of the fireworks as they explode in the sky. However, if you happen to be a bit far away from the action, try a telephoto lens. Bring both lenses with you if possible.
If you don’t have a DSLR camera, a mirrorless camera or a powerful point-and-shoot will also work just fine. Just because you don’t have the best camera in the world doesn’t mean you can’t take amazing photographs of fireworks. Do the best you can with what you’ve got – just try to avoid using a smartphone, as these don’t take very quality pictures.
The Best Equipment to Photograph Fireworks
The best way to capture amazing photographs of fireworks is to come prepared. This means bringing the right gear and equipment. You have your quality camera, wide-angle, and telephoto lens. You also need to bring a tripod, batteries, memory cards, a remote, and maybe even a drone for a unique perspective.
The tripod is one thing you can’t forget when going to take pictures of fireworks. A tripod is crucial for everything involved in getting the best photos. To capture photographs properly, you will be using a very slow shutter speed. The only way this is possible is with a tripod to help reduce the blur.
Choose a very sturdy tripod. Make sure it can handle the weight of your camera easily, that way you don’t find out too late that your heavy camera makes the tripod unstable. It’s also important that you bring something heavy that can keep the tripod balanced if you’re at the edge of the water or somewhere with heavy winds.
A remote control is needed so that you don’t have to touch the camera with your fingers. Even the smallest touch can seriously mess up a picture being taken at slow shutter speed. If you touch the camera with your finger, you could ruin your photograph.
Any remote control will work. Wireless is the best, and you can even get timed remotes that take pictures without any input from you. An even better option is to control your camera wirelessly using your smartphone. If you have a relatively new camera, this should be an option. Wireless control means so long as your camera is positioned on the tripod properly, you won’t need to touch it for the duration of the fireworks show.
As with every important photography event, be sure that you bring sufficient memory cards to get yourself through the night. Some big firework shows can go on for hours, and this means a lot of photo-snapping. By bringing an extra memory card or two, you’ll never need to worry about running out of space.
Just like with memory cards, every expert photographer knows to bring a spare battery. Not only that but also bring the battery charger. A photoshoot of fireworks could turn into a photo session at the after-party. It’s always better to be prepped for anything.
The Best Position to Photograph Fireworks
The key to getting the best photographs of fireworks is to get a great vantage point. Before the show even starts, while it’s still bright and sunny out, you need to find an excellent position to photograph the entire show. Before you set out, be aware that a lot of people are going to be doing the same thing as you. It’s going to be very busy at the location, so scout in advance and then show up early to secure a good spot.
If you can’t go to the venue beforehand, check online and figure out where the best place to take photos is going to be. You want a spot that is flat for your tripod, where people won’t be walking in front of your camera, and where you can see the sky, the background, and the landscape.
Remember that the fireworks will explode in a huge burst. You need to be far enough away to capture the explosion of light along with the background, the city lights, the ocean, the bay – whatever you want in the background. It’s always good to have a plan before you pick a spot. Understand what you’re looking for and what elements you want in the background, such as city buildings, mountains, etc.
Once you have your spot picked out, set up your equipment early. Take some practice shots, make sure you’re in the perfect position to capture the extravagance of the fireworks and your background, and if you’re not satisfied, you still have time to relocate.
The Best Camera Settings to Photograph Fireworks
One of the biggest questions when it comes to how to photograph fireworks is which focus is better to use. Should you use autofocus or manual? The truth is that you can do it either way. Your camera should have an autofocus system capable of focusing on the fireworks when they burst. However, you could encounter some lag, causing you to miss shots.
Manual focus is the preferred method. If you know where the fireworks are going to burst, you can use manual focus before they even start, that way your camera keeps a constant focus throughout the show.
If you’re not exactly sure where to focus, try setting your sights on some kind of landmark near where the fireworks are going to be bursting. This isn’t always possible. However, if there is a building or tree near the explosions, you can focus there. Otherwise, focus on Infinity and keep your camera completely still on its tripod.
Always avoid flash. You’re not going to need a flash at any point while taking pictures of fireworks. You’ll be using a very long shutter speed, so the flash wouldn’t make sense. Instead, using flash will actually make your photographs worse.
You want to reduce digital noise to avoid blurring your pictures, so keep your ISO low. Your ISO should be at 200 or lower. Instead of playing with your ISO when your photos seem underexposed, simply lengthen your shutter speed. Your camera’s native ISO should be fine, either 100 or 200.
The main setting to worry about is shutter speed. To capture the brilliant trails of color that come from fireworks when they burst, you need to have a long shutter speed. In fact, the longer your shutter speed, the longer the trails of light and the more bursts you’ll photograph in a single picture.
To start, try an exposure time of about 2 seconds. This is perfect for fireworks photography. Once you’ve taken a few photos at 2 seconds, you can start to play with the times to see what you like better. This is going to require a bit of experimenting. Try going all the way up to 10 seconds to capture some truly stunning pictures. And if you’re feeling daring, you can even push beyond 10 seconds.
The one thing to remember is that if your shutter speed is too long, you’ll capture too many fireworks bursts, and this will clutter your picture. If you notice too much is going on in your pictures, slow down the shutter speed. A sweet spot will fill your picture with light and trails of sparks without making it look too busy.
Fireworks photography doesn’t need to be difficult. If you remember to bring with you a quality camera, a sturdy tripod, and a remote to snap pictures hands-free, you’ll do just fine.
Remember to always show up early and get a great position to take photographs from. And finally, remember it’s all about the shutter speed. Play with the shutter speeds to create unique images full of light and magic.