In this article, I want to give you my favorite tips to help you get stunning fireworks photos.
First of all, let’s see what tools you need. Remember that even with basic gear you will be able to get great fireworks pictures. Whether you have a cheap DSLR from a few years ago or a new expensive camera, you can get amazing photos.
Quick summary of camera settings for photographing fireworks:
- Aperture from f/8 to f/16
- Shutter Speed from 2 to 6 second (bulb mode)
- ISO 100 or 200
- Focus manual
- White Balance auto
What Gear you Need to Photograph Fireworks
Use a Tripod for Photographing Fireworks
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You need a tripod when capturing fireworks.
You need a stable platform to put your camera on since you are shooting in low light and at a slow shutter speed.
Remote Shutter Release
Using a remote shutter release is good practice and it’s definitely going to produce better results when taking photos of fireworks.
Since you are using a long exposure, the shutter release will avoid camera shakes and ruining your photo. Yes, you can still use the 2-second timer trick, but you want to touch your camera as less as possible when it’s set on a tripod.
Choose the right shutter release and make sure that it’s compatible with your camera.
Best Focal Length for Photographing Fireworks
I prefer a zoom 24mm to 70mm lens to have some room for changing my focal length and zoom in a little bit if needed. Wider focal lengths won’t show the fireworks as well so try not to go too wide.
If you want to take a minimalistic shot you can use a telephoto lens, but it all depends on the situation and how far you are.
Best Camera Settings for Photographing Fireworks
You need to shoot fully manual since you’ll need to set your aperture, shutter speed, and ISO depending on the situation. Fireworks happen quick and your camera is not able to pick the best settings.
By the way, I know you know, but switch the flash off. I said fully manual ?
The best aperture you should use is around f/8 to f/16 to get sharper results. Experiment a little bit and if your images are too dark you’ll have to use a larger aperture.
So the reason why at the beginning I said that you don’t need expensive gear is exactly this. You won’t need an aperture of f/1.4 and all the lenses on the affordable lenses offer the f/8 to f/16 aperture range you need.
You need a long exposure for shooting fireworks.
Anywhere from two to six seconds shutter speed should do the trick. Set your camera to bulb mode. In bulb mode, you control the shutter speed by holding down the shutter release.
Using the shutter release cable to avoid camera shakes, press the button as the firework is on its way up, hold the button and release it when the explosion is ended.
Repeat for the next shot.
Use base ISO, 100 or 200 depending on what camera you are using. Adjust the aperture if the images are dark. At higher ISO you are likely to introduce digital noise and also since you are shooting with a slow shutter speed at high ISO the image will be too bright.
Where to focus when shooting fireworks?
Use Manual Focus
Yes, turn off autofocus and use manual focus. With autofocus on your camera will struggle a lot to focus on the right spot since you are shooting in low light.
This is because the camera can’t find enough contrast in the sky and will keep trying to focus and failing.
A good trick is to use autofocus to let the camera focus on an object that’s at the same distance as the fireworks from you than switch to manual focus so the camera won’t change your settings.
Or since you are likely far away from the fireworks you can just set your camera at infinity and let it be.
I don’t recommend changing the white balance. I personally use auto white balance. But make sure you are shooting RAW so that you can adjust the white balance in Lightroom.
Now you know what gear to use, that you don’t need expensive tools to get good photos of fireworks and what are the best camera settings.
I want to give you two more tips before you go, that I think are pretty crucial.
Alright, this should have been the first tip.
You have to arrive early or you won’t have space to place your tripod and the most annoying thing is to have someone standing in front of you when you’re shooting.
Good vantage points are busy on that day and a good trick is to bring a blanket with you to own your space and when the fireworks begin you can then use it to place your tripod.
It’s About Trial and Error
Shooting fireworks is about trial and error. Try different compositions and see what works best for you.
Switch lenses if you don’t like what you are shooting and it doesn’t matter if you miss a few shots.
Just stay relaxed and have fun!
Stefano Caioni is the founder of Pixinfocus. His passion for photography helps him discover new places and live new adventures.