Eight things (plus 1) you should know for shooting fireworks

• Fireworks •

• Fireworks •
Funny how explosions represent our most important traditions…
Click image to view large
• Fireworks • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Celebrating with fireworks happens worldwide…

Everywhere we enjoy their explosive delights. Each celebration has a unique character. Each display is unique too. Fortunately photographing fireworks is universally fun, simple and rewarding. Here we look at how to photograph fireworks.

Shooting Fireworks

Here is a great video to help you make the best of your fireworks celebrations on the Fourth of July or to lay your photographic plans for other celebrations later in the year.

After the video I have made some extra points about what Mark Wallace says and add one extra technique you can try. So read on after you have seen the first eight shown here.
Presented by Mark Wallace from snapfactory  External link - opens new tab/page

A few points about the video

Before our bonus tip here are a few extra points about the video…

  • Compact camera owners can do a great job photographing fireworks. Use the scene mode called “Fireworks”. However, even compact cameras need a long shutter opening to capture the full impact of a firework. So you’ll need tripod or other rest-point to keep the camera steady.
  • A wide angle lens makes capturing your fireworks easier when using a tripod. If you don’t have a wide angle lens most kit lenses are quite wide at the lower end. Have a look and see. Any lens under 24mm will make a great shot.
  • Not everyone has a cable release. It is helpful but you can still make great shots without it. The shot at the top of the page was done without a cable release.
  • It’s useful to try ‘live view’ if your DSLR has it. In most DSLRs live view flips up the reflex mirror in the camera and this saves a lot of vibration. Otherwise use “mirror lock up mode”.
  • Mark Wallace suggests you start off with your aperture at f10. This works well. Firework displays in well-lit urban areas however, may get a background orange glow from near-by street lights – especially with smoke or some mist around. Slightly under-expose the shot (start at f11), this helps keep the orange background glow down. Experiment and see what works best. It is easier to brighten the fireworks in post processing than remove an orange glow.
A bonus technique if you have ‘bulb’ setting

Try this to get multiple firework exposures in camera…

  • Cut a small piece of black card in a square large enough to cover the front of your lens.
  • Set the bulb setting up on your camera.
  • When ready to shoot your first shot put the card over the lens to cut out any light.
  • Press the shutter release button to open the shutter. While the card is over the lens it will not expose.
  • When a firework is in the field of view take off the black card – about two seconds will do.
  • Replace the card.
  • When the next firework is up, remove and replace the card again.
  • You can repeat as many times as you want, although I have found three exposures are optimal.
  • When you have enough multiple exposures press the button to finish ‘bulb’ and close the camera shutter.

This multiple exposure technique will leave your picture peppered with different firework explosions. You might have to retry the technique a few times to get it right, or to get a nice pattern of multiple exposures. But it is fun and you can get some great results. Enjoy!

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photographers.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.

6 responses to “Eight things (plus 1) you should know for shooting fireworks

  1. I should have checked here before taking my firework shots. Thank you so much for the tips. Will definitely use them one day.

  2. Cathy Donohoue

    Thanks Damon. New tips in here! Hope I don’t get rained out tonight.

  3. Jose A De Leon

    Nice article Damon. I’ve never shot fireworks before, but now I think I’m going to give it a shot.