July 4th is upon us (at least here in the United States)! That means it’s time for fireworks displays. But whatever the reason for a pyrotechnic show, they make for beautiful photos. Here are a few tips how to photograph fireworks or just get better fireworks photos!
1. Get a tripod
Why do you need a tripod? Well, when you are trying to photograph fireworks, what you want to capture isn’t happening in a split second. You will want to capture long exposure photos that show the fireworks display realistically. That means keeping your camera still and stable.
2. Use a remote trigger for your camera!
This is one of the most critical tips I have learned for getting photographs of fireworks displays. Your photos of fireworks will be much sharper if you employ a remote trigger. Even pressing the shutter button yourself while the camera is on a tripod can move the camera slightly and result in motion blur.
This will also allow you to trigger your shot when you see the fireworks are just about to burst, which might be harder to do through the viewfinder.
3. Low Low ISO
Fireworks are VERY bright. You’re going to want to shoot at your lowest ISO. Around 100 is going to be best.
4. High Aperture
Again, fireworks are very bright, and you’ll need to do a long exposure to get the light trails. That means you’ll want to limit the amount of light hitting your sensor/film. Consider starting at f/9 – f/11.
Bonus tip: If you want to shoot at lower apertures, get yourself a neutral density filter!
5. Long Exposure
You want to be able to capture the entire ‘burst’ of the fireworks or even multiple bursts. That can take a long time so consider using ‘bulb’ mode or going with a long shutter speed (several seconds at least).
6. Manual Focus
Turn off your autofocus and set your focus to ‘infinity’. The fireworks are going to be a looooooooong way away, so you don’t have to worry about getting the bursts in focus. And your AF is going to be all over the place if you try to use it in the lighting conditions. You’ll miss everything. Trust me.
EXTRA CREDIT: Try Focus Pulling!
What is focus pulling? Start your image with your lens out of focus. Then after you trigger the shutter, slowly and smoothly over a couple of seconds shift the focus to infinity. This will give you some crazy looking shots where the fireworks bursts look like sea anemones.
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