Fireworks look beautiful in photographs, full of light and color. You may wonder how you can best capture fireworks in an image without issues like over or underexposure, blurriness, and graininess. To photograph fireworks well, start by picking a good shooting location. You can also use camera settings that will help you achieve a high quality image. Then, set up the camera on a tripod to keep it steady and frame the fireworks with landmarks, a skyline, or even people to capture interesting photos.
EditSelecting the Shooting Location
- Look for a high spot in an open area. Try to position yourself on a spot that is high up, such as a ledge in a field or a high slope by a main road. Check that you can see the spot where the fireworks are supposed to be in the sky from your vantage point and that you are at a 45 degree angle from the ground when you look up.
- Keep in mind if you want to include people in some of your shots, you may pick a high spot that you can move down from easily so you can be closer to crowds.
- Check that the spot is upwind from the fireworks so you get a clear short. Shooting downwind from the fireworks can cause smoke to get into your images as the fireworks go off. Prevent this by making sure your shooting location is upwind from where the fireworks are set to go off.
- To determine the wind conditions, check the weather beforehand. Note if it is going to be a windy night and plan accordingly.
- Pick a spot that has a view of the skyline or a landmark for a unique shot. You may want to include a beautiful city skyline or a historic landmark in the area where the fireworks are set to go off. Find a shooting location that allows you to see the skyline clearly below the fireworks. Or go for a spot where a landmark or building appears in one side of the frame or in the foreground.
- You can always shift your shooting location slightly while the fireworks are going off to get different objects in the foreground, as well as no objects at all in the shot. Try to find a spot where you can move around and play with different compositions.
EditSetting up the Camera
- Switch your camera to manual mode. You do not need an expensive camera with a lot of different settings to photograph fireworks well. In fact, you can use a film camera or a digital camera to get a great image as long as it can be switched to manual mode.#*Make sure the focus mode reverts to manual when you switch to manual mode, as this will allow you to focus the camera as needed during the fireworks show.
- If you are shooting with the camera on your smartphone, download an app that allows you to have a slower shutter speed on the camera, such as Slow Shutter Cam.
- Some digital cameras will have a “Fireworks Mode” on the settings dial or in the menu options on the camera. Use this mode, if available, as this allows the camera to adjust the settings for you so you do not need to do it yourself.
- Turn off the flash to limit distractions around you. Switch the flash off, as it is not strong enough to illuminate the foreground in the dark. It can also distract you when you are taking pictures and bother others around you.
- Use a wide or telephoto zoom lens to capture the fireworks. Look for a telephoto zoom lens that is 70-200mm or 70-300mm, as this will allow you to capture the fireworks in full from a distance. You can also use a wide lens that is 24-70mm or 24-120mm if you are shooting a bit closer to the fireworks.
- It may be good to have both lenses on hand so you can switch between them to suit your vantage point.
- Start with a slow shutter speed of 2.5-4 seconds. Using a slow shutter speed will allow the camera shutter to stay open long enough to capture the long light trails of the fireworks. Avoid going lower than 2.5 seconds, as a shutter speed that is too low can cause the fireworks to appear blown out or overexposed.
- You may need to play around with the shutter speed as you photograph the fireworks, shifting between 2.5-4 seconds. Try a few different speeds once you set up your camera to vary the types of images you get.
- Set the camera to a low ISO level and a narrow aperture field. Start with an ISO that is at 100, as this will allow you to allow use a low shutter speed. You can usually leave the ISO at 100 as you shoot. The aperture, or how wide the lens opens, should be around f/5.6-f/8. This will keep the aperture just narrow enough to capture the fireworks without letting in too much light.
- You can try playing around with the aperture field as you photograph the fireworks, bumping up to f/11-f/16 depending on how bright your images appear.
EditTaking the Photographs
- Arrive early for the fireworks to reserve your shooting spot. If you know the fireworks show is going to be popular, you may aim to get to the location 30 minutes-1 hour early so you can set up your camera gear and be ready for the show.
- If you are not sure about the details of the location, you may visit it a day early to stake out a good location for shooting the fireworks.
- Put the camera on a tripod to get a steady image. Always use a tripod when you are shooting fireworks, as this will ensure you get a clear, high quality image. Set up the camera, or your smartphone, on a tripod in the shooting location. Make sure the shutter speed, ISO, and aperture have already been set, as you do not want to have to touch the camera too much once you start shooting.
- Look for a tripod that fits your camera model at your local camera store or online.
- Get a remote shutter release to avoid touching the camera. The remote shutter release attaches to your camera and is controlled by a small remote you hold in your hand. This feature is ideal when you are shooting fireworks, as touching your camera while shooting can cause the images to appear blurry or unclear.
- You can buy a remote shutter release at your local camera store or online.
- Focus the camera on a distant object near where the fireworks are going off. Look into the lense and adjust the focus manually so it is on an object that is fairly far away, just beside or in front of where the fireworks are going to explode. This will then ensure the fireworks appear in focus when they enter the frame.
- You can also try zooming out or in and focusing on the fireworks to get a different perspective. Your wide or telephoto zoom lense should make doing this fairly easy.
- Frame the fireworks with people, objects, or a landscape. Use your surroundings to make the photographs more interesting and unique. Try placing a landmark in one corner of the frame and focusing on it as the fireworks go off. You can also focus on the skyline just below the fireworks to get a nice landscape in the foreground.
- Including people watching the fireworks can also make the photographs more interesting. Try shooting at a lower angle to capture people in the foreground or background of the image.
- Reduce the shutter speed if the fireworks appear blurry or unclear. If you notice your images are coming out blurry or unclear, it may be because your shutter speed is not slow enough. Bump it down 1-2 speeds so the lense stays open longer and you can capture the full effect of the fireworks.
- You may need to also play around with the aperture setting when you reduce the shutter speed to find the right balance.
- Use “bulb mode” to experiment with exposure. To do this, press the shutter down as the fireworks are launching. Continue to hold the shutter for several seconds until the burst fades and then slowly let it go. This allows you to create a long exposure that will capture the fireworks as it explodes.
- Use a remote shutter release to do “bulb mode” as this will prevent you from touching the camera and causing it to shift or move, which can ruin the photograph.
- Shoot in RAW mode, rather than JPEG mode, if you are using a digital camera. RAW mode will make it easier for you to edit RAW images later to remove shadows or blurry area in the images.
EditThings You'll Need
- A digital or film camera with a manual mode
- A tripod
- A remote shutter release
- A flashlight
- Set up a Fireworks Show
- Become a Professional Photographer
- Celebrate Diwali
- Photograph the Night Sky
- Take Long Exposure Photographs During the Day
EditSources and Citations
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