Ok, so it’s that time of year – the annual celebration of our Independence. Which means nearly everyone with an interest in photography will be setting up to take some shots of the local fireworks displays, or maybe even just their own little family show with the kiddos. If you’ve never done it, or never really gotten the results you want, Here a few helpful tips to get you there…
- Tripod – Typically, if you’re wanting to get the trails and full ‘explosion’ of a firework, you will be shooting with shutter speeds of a few seconds or more. A sturdy tripod is a must to keep the entire image from being blurry.
- Shutter Release – This really goes hand-in-hand with the tripod. IT’s not entirely necessary, as you can set a shutter timer release, but it does help ensure a steady shot.
- Camera with Manual settings – yup, you will need to be able to balance the shutter speed and aperture manually for best results. While some cell phones even have fireworks settings that can yield decent results, to make sure you get what you want, having the ability to control everything separately is a huge benefit.
- Wide angle lens – Depending on your preferences, a good wide-angle zoom lens really helps make sure you get the entire display and some of the scene in your photo.
- Charged batteries – you may or may not need to bring a spare, but at least make sure your main camera battery is charged before heading to the display. Nothing kills the fun quicker than setting everything up only to find out your camera is dad after a few shots.
- Memory card(s) – similarly, just make sure to pack a memory card or two 🙂
- Flashlight – it will be dark. Bring a flashlight to help you in setting up, adjusting and tearing down your equipment.
One of the most helpful tips I know of is this – Scout the location. Whether you do this earlier the same day or even a few days before, it is super helpful to know where the fireworks will be launched form, and what view you can get from any certain location. Check things out, and try to get there early on the day of the show to claim your spot. Keep in mind the possibility of another photographer or viewer deciding your spot is awesome too…
For settings – it really can vary a lot by location and environment. In a city the ambient city lights can have a big impact.
- ISO – many people initially think that since it will be dark out, a high ISO setting is necessary. The fireworks are BRIGHT though, so really you can get good results even at 200. I usually start there and then decide with the first few test shots if I need to bump it up.
- Aperture – I usually set this at f8 to f9 and go from there. unless you really want to get some creative Depth of Field, the lower apertures really just make it more difficult to get perfect focus
- Shutter Speed – again, as mentioned earlier a few seconds is best for capturing the whole trailing stream of a firework launching and then exploding.
For reference, the photo at the top of this article was shot with an ISO of 800, F11, at 4 seconds. I used a Canon 5d mkIII and the 24-105 f4L lens.