16 Tips For How To Shoot Fireworks
How To Shoot Fireworks 2011 Edition
It’s that time of year where the fireworks come out to play. But how in the world do you capture fantastic images of them? Do you raise your ISO up very high because it’s dark out? Where do I focus because my auto focus wont lock in? There are so many questions people have when it comes to photographing fireworks but I am here to give you what I think are the easiest tips to help you get successful photos this year.
These tips are in no particular order. Click Here to see the FULL RES Exported Photos.
Tripod: A tripod is integral to getting the best results. You will want one that is sturdy and wont shake terribly to much when people are walking around and fireworks are going off. If there is shake it will be seen in your images being that you will be using a longer shutter speed.
When it comes to setting up your tripod it probably is not the best idea to set it up to low to the ground. The reason being is that some people stand during the fireworks and you don’t want them blocking your shots last minutes.
Get there early and OWN your spot: You know you will be taking photos so get on the scene early to get your spot. You want to make sure you have a clear view of where the fireworks will be. You want to make sure that your view will not be obstructed by people or tress. Last but not least protect your spot by putting down a blanket or something that defines your spot.
What Lens Should I Use: A lot will depend on how far you are away from the fireworks. I have had great results with a 24-70 on a FX camera and a 17-50 on a DX camera. You probably will be on the wider side of the zoom range to capture full explosions in the sky. I would not suggest ultra wide angle lens unless the scene calls for capturing a lot of the surroundings in the image.
Keep in mind that having a 2.8 or 1.4 lens is not integral to getting fantastic results. As you will find out below your F stop will not be wide open.
Vertical or Horizonticle: A nice mix of both is what I would recommend. If you are going for the explosion you will find that horizonticle will generally work better. If you are going to follow the entire path of the mortar from launch to explosion a vertical would work.
What should my ISO be: You may think that you will want to bump your ISO higher because you are shooting in the dark. But that’s not the case here, I recommend shooting around 100 or 200 ISO. Keep in mind that fireworks are very very bright so higher ISO’s are not needed.
Where should I set my Aperture: From my experience I have found that somewhere between F8 and F16 has worked best for me. This will change depending on how far you are from the fireworks and where they explode in the sky. You will need to make changes on the fly depending on the results you are getting. If the image is looking to bright you can close down meaning go from F10 to F13 or further. If it’s to dark you would let more light in my opening up your aperture.
Manual Exposure: Should you set your camera to “auto” or aperture priority, NO. If you do this the camera will not be able to meter properly for the image. You should set your camera to Manual mode so you can independently set everything on your own.
Shoot On bulb: If your camera has a Bulb setting (B) I highly suggest using it. What the bulb mode does is it keeps the shutter open as long as your finger is still pressing the shutter button. From my experience I have found an exposure between 2.5 to 6 seconds works the best. You can simply count in your head and play around with shorter and longer to find what works the best for you.
Have a cable release: A cable release plugs into your camera and basically puts the shutter button in your hand. This means you will have less shake of the camera. If you don’t have a cable release you can simply press and hold the shutter for the desired time. Keep in mind if you cause camera shake that may show up in your final images. As a side note, all of the images posted with this post were shot without a cable release.
Anticipation: Anticipate when to press the shutter. If you are going for large explosions in the sky wait until the mortar is launched than press and hold the button until the explosion happens. The longer the shutter is open the more of the firework you will see.
Turn Off Auto Focus: You will want to turn off your auto focus as it will not have anything to focus on. Some people would say turn the focus all the way to infinity and pull it back slightly and you should be fine. What I have found works best for me is waiting for the first explosion in the sky and quickly manually focusing where the explosion was. At that point I make sure that there is no chance of the focus shifting on me.
Composite in post: If you are into Photoshop and doing composites it could be really cool to make one large image with your best photos put into one.
Bring A Chair: Since you will be getting to your spot pretty early I recommend having a chair or something to sit on that will be comfortable.
Flashlight: Make sure you have a flashlight with you to check your camera settings or find anything that you drop. It will be extremely dark and having some light will help you more than you know.
Bring Water: Fireworks generally happen in the summer which means it could be very hot. BRING WATER!!!!
Bring Earplugs: If you are sensitive to sounds, bring earplugs. Having earplugs will also help you focus on what you need to do.
Don’t Shoot Just Fireworks: Yes the fireworks are the main attraction but sometimes the best images may be of people watching fireworks. Just think of capturing an image of a child looking up wide eyed at the sky and you capture the reflect of the fireworks in their eyes. Sure this will take some skill but it’s something to keep in mind. There usually are a lot of families around enjoying the festivities so keep an eye out for winning images.
RELAX: Try to stay calm, keep a clear and focused mind on what your task is. Don’t over complicate it, stick to the basics and you should get solid results.
Remember, it’s not like this only happens once a year, oh wait, maybe it happens twice, have fun and smile.