6 Tips on How to Capture Great Fireworks Photos

1. Use a Slow Shutter Speed

When you photograph fireworks, it is very important that you set your camera to a slow shutter speed. This includes a shutter speed that is anywhere between 1 second and 30 seconds or longer, about ISO 100. The shutter speed that is suitable varies depending on the amount of ambient light as well as the amount of fireworks in the sky.

Why use relatively long exposures to photography fireworks? This is simply because long exposures can capture the burst of fireworks, producing moving streaks against the dark sky. Using long exposures will indeed produce stunning effects.

long exposure fireworks

“Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks 2011” captured by Joyce A

Since slow shutter speeds are necessary, you will also have to ensure good camera support. This will make sure that the pictures taken will turn out looking steady and clear.

2. Ensure Camera Stability

No doubt, one of the best ways to ensure camera stability is to use a tripod. Nonetheless, if you do not have a tripod, you can opt to brace yourself against a building or maybe a tree. Otherwise, you can have your camera placed on sturdy surface. You can also use your camera’s shutter release cable or self-timer function. Using either of these options will release the shutter without any camera shake.

3. Do Not Use Flash

Don’t use flash when photographing fireworks. Flash will not help capture fireworks at a distance. Nonetheless, flash does help light up subjects in the foreground. A perfect example of this is when photographers shoot portraits with fireworks as the background; they will often use flash to illuminate their model.

fireworks portrait

“Kyle & Laura” captured by Charles Siritho

4. Set Your Camera and Lens to Manual Mode

Fireworks photography is definitely a genre for which you will have to be brave and enter into the world of manual settings. Both your lens focus and exposure mode must be set to manual. On your lens, adjust the focus ring so that it is set to infinity focus. The symbol for infinity is similar to the number eight, except that it is turned sideways.

5. Experiment With Exposure

As mentioned earlier, you should experiment with long shutter speeds. There really isn’t any perfect shutter speed. All you need to do is to try different shutter speeds and get the sort of fireworks photography you are after.

Another thing you should do is to dial in a relatively small aperture. Anywhere between f/8 and f/16 will be good. Doing this will prevent the scene from being overexposed during the long exposures.

6. Try Using One Long BULB Exposure

fireworks photography

“Magic Kingdom – Happy Fourth of July” captured by
Jeff Krause

With one long BULB exposure, you can combine a few fireworks together into one picture when you hold the shutter open for half a minute or longer. Adjust your camera settings so that it is set to manual mode, and set the shutter speed to BULB. Check your camera manual for instructions.

As long as the shutter release is depressed, the shutter will stay open. This will allow you to photograph a few bursts of fireworks in one picture, rather than just one burst of fireworks.

While you’re at this, remember to block off the lens and sensor in between the bursts of fireworks by using a piece of paper or cloth in front of the lens. Doing this allows you to refrain from facing problems such as skies looking muddy grey in pictures.

About the Author:
This article was written by Michelle Lee Fui Jinn, tipsforphotographers dot com. It takes time to practice and improve your photography skills.

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2 responses to “6 Tips on How to Capture Great Fireworks Photos”

  1. Mick says:

    It would have been even more interesting had the author actually posted a link to a website that actually exists.

    According to my ISP there is no such website as tipsforphotographers dot com (tipsforphotographers.com)

  2. Thanks for advice. I dont know why, but I always tried to get a lot of short exposure shots – around half a second. Just wanted to catch some good ones. Now I definitely will try some 20 sec and more.

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