With every 4th of July holiday, there are fireworks displays. Whether you are setting them off in your backyard or watching them at your local fairgrounds, it’s always a bright, fantastic sight to see. Many people try to take pictures of fireworks but can’t seem to get a good shot due to timing or focusing issues. The fireworks never seem to appear as magnificent in the photograph as they do in real life. Here are a few tips from professional photographers that may help you get a great fireworks photograph.
Prepare ahead of time.
An hour or two before the fireworks are scheduled to launch, find a good location to take pictures from. Set up away from trees, vehicles, and other obstacles that may block your shot. Try to get close, but not too close. You don’t want to have to tilt too far upward and struggle to get the firework in the shot. Take note of where the wind is coming from. Set up your camera upwind to avoid smoke from the fireworks obstructing your shot.
Turn off auto-exposure and other automatic settings.
With the dark night sky and bright contrasting light from the fireworks, you want to make sure your auto-exposure settings are turned OFF. If your auto-exposure is on, the sky may look gray and your fireworks may look washed out in the photo. Adjust all settings manually to ensure you get the best, most balanced shot.
Use long exposure at slower shutter speeds.
Many professional photographers will experiment with long exposure at slow shutter speeds for anywhere from 1-30 seconds or longer when photographing fireworks. Long exposures allow the bright burst from the fireworks to create beautiful, colorful moving streaks. Also, with longer shutter speeds, you may be able to capture multiple fireworks in the same shot. There is no “correct” shutter speed for photographing fireworks – different speeds work for different bursts; experiment with your camera by adjusting your shutter speeds manually with each shot.
Try a smaller lens aperture.
While there is no specific aperture setting for fireworks, you may want to try setting your f-stop at a a higher number for a smaller aperture when using long exposure. Higher f-stops between f/11 and f/16 tend to give thinner fireworks a richer, brighter color saturation and are less likely to wash out the image. With shorter shutter speeds, try stopping your lens between f/4 and f/2.8; again, manually adjust your settings as needed and do not rely on automatic settings to get the shot you desire.
Use a tripod!
Even the slightest movement of your camera can ruin the perfect image. Set up your camera with a tripod to ensure stability in your shot. A stabilizing lens is not enough, especially for longer, slower shutter speeds. You can also use a remote control or timer setting to avoid bumping or touching the camera while photographing the fireworks.
Happy 4th of July!