Photo Tip ~ Shooting Fireworks

Photographing fireworks is fun and unpredictable. First of all, let’s start off with the equipment, you’re going to need:

  • camera, of course (preferably with full manual capability)
  • tripod
  • shutter release cable
  • flashlight

It’s probably best to set up early when you still have some light to work with. Practice positioning your camera towards the sky. This is not a usual tripod position and you may need a bit of time to get comfortable with the controls.

Now for setting your exposure and capturing the fireworks. You can use any lens you’d like. Wide lenses usually work well, but I’ve had a blast (no pun intended) shooting close-ups with a 200mm telephoto lens. You’re going to want to have everything in manual mode, including your focus. I will use the lens’ auto focus on the first burst or two, then once focused, I’ll turn off the auto focus setting.

To reduce noise (or grainy specks) in your shots, keep your ISO down in the 200 to 400 range. We want the camera to slowly capture the explosions and make cool light trails. Setting the ISO up high to 800, 1600 or higher will simply made the camera capture images faster and “see” less of the fireworks. And it will introduce more noise.

Next, in manual mode, I’ll set my aperture usually around f/8 or f/11. This will give a good depth of field. And now comes the fun part – shutter speed. Shutter speed is where the magic and experimenting will be done. Start with a one second exposure and see what you get. Make it longer or shorter, experiment. By the way the little quote mark (“) on your shutter speed indicates seconds. In other words 3” means a 3 second exposure. If you have “bulb” this will allow the shutter to be open whenever you’re depressing the cable release.

It you want to learn all the ins and outs of Night Photography, you’ve come to the right place. Sign up for my next Night Photography eClass and take your photography skills to the next level. And if you’re up for a challenge, do something a bit different and post your fireworks pix here.

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