Photographing fireworks seems like you’re capturing some kind of mythical beast. It was Canada Day yesterday, so I packed up my gear and drove off in search of some magical explosions to capture!
(Learn more about how to photograph fireworks from this blog post here.)
I’ve photographed many fireworks before (not professionally – though that would be an awesome job: “Fireworks Photographer”). Every time I photograph fireworks I always feel like they never turn out quite the way I expect (or want). It always seems like stuff gets in my way, or that I’m too far away, or that the fireworks are too bright, too dark, or too blurry.
This time was the same, but I was also pleasantly surprised to get a few awesome shots!
Here are a few quick tips I realized from my experience yesterday:
1. Get there early. They’re not firing off these expensive pyrotechnics just for you. You’re likely going to be competing with huge crowds of people for the best spots. I foolishly didn’t anticipate the road closures and massive amounts of traffic as I shared the show with roughly 50,000 others!
2. Walk around to find the best view point. Despite the crowds I was shocked to find that the absolute best vantage point for the fireworks was nearly deserted. I had to walk farther to find it, so that’s probably why!
3. I shot with two cameras. One camera was a crop sensor camera (70D) which I hand held and shot a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens along with a 45mm tilt/shift. The second camera was a full frame Canon 6D with a 24-70mm on a tripod. Shooting with two cameras definitely helped me capture more. The tripod helped with the longer exposures, but I found I liked the shorter exposure / hand held stuff better.
4. Take a ton of photos! There’s so much variety possible and the show is over pretty quickly. I took about 400 shots in 15 minutes between two cameras.
Here are a few of my favs separated by lens:
These were taken on the Canon 70D so the crop sensor helped me get closer!
These shots were taken with a 45mm tilt/shift lens. I love the dreamy out of focus bokeh! They’re a little bit more abstract than typical fireworks photos but I really love them!
These ones were taken on a tripod and most had long shutter speeds. I used a Vello Shutterboss wireless remote to trigger the camera.
In the shot below you can see how close I managed to get to where they were setting off the fireworks. (Note: I was behind a safe distance barrier – it’s not like I tried to sneak up on these exploding fireworks!). I’ve never been able to get this close before, and it was kind of intense!
Here’s a closer look at the staging area:
This was the fireworks show for the Millwoods Edmonton 2015 Canada Day. I had searched Google before the show to see if there were many examples photos from the Millwoods show, but I couldn’t find a lot. If you’re from Edmonton and you want to photograph from this point of view make sure you walk around the lake (basically away from all the people and the stage) toward the football/soccer fields.
From now on I think I’ll ditch the tripod when photographing fireworks. To shoot hand held you have to use a faster shutter speed and higher ISO, but I felt I had a lot more variety with my compositions. The tripod helps get the long exposure streak style fireworks shots, but they some how feel so much more static and far less explosive compared to the faster shutter speed shots.
Can’t wait to photograph fireworks again! And I hope our US readers enjoy July 4th, and get some great firework shots of their own!
One final note: Minimal post-processing was done on these, just a bit of vibrance, clarity, and contrast in Lightroom.
Oh, and here’s a quick shot of the full moon I got from our driveway after the fireworks show. A good night for photography all around!