When I was young, my family and I would go to my grandparent’s lake house in Pennsylvania for the Fourth of July. My grandfather’s favorite activity on those nights was to set off a series of his own fireworks very close to where our family was standing. Because there is nothing that says “Fourth of July!” quite like almost setting your family on fire.
Anyway, there is something really special about being a young kid on a boat, mesmerized by the lights in the sky. I have nothing but fond memories from those trips. The only things I wish I had more of are pictures of the fireworks themselves. There are TONS of results when you Google ”how to photograph fireworks” so I took some of the best tips and organized them here for you
How To Photograph Fireworks
- Bring a tripod, bring a tripod, bring a tripod, bring a tripod, bring a tripod. Did I mention a tripod? If you want good fireworks photos then you’ll need long exposures. The best way to do that is to have a steady tripod. If you absolutely can’t bring a tripod to the party, then do your best to balance your camera on other level areas.
- Use the self-timer to reduce vibration. Even with your camera on a tripod, you cause small vibrations just by clicking the shutter, so you’ll have a less-than-perfectly sharp capture. Set your self-timer to the shortest duration possible and use it to give your camera a chance to settle before the shot’s actually taken. In this scenario, using a cable release or remote control so you won’t have to jiggle the camera would be really helpful.
- Bring batteries and memory cards. I often forget to charge the batteries in my camera and when your camera dies unexpectedly it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. So bring extra batteries! (and memory cards too!)
- Find a great location early. It’s going to be hard to move once you start plus you could be missing some great shots by moving around so do your homework and scope out a good spot ahead of time.
- Turn off the flash. The fireworks are bright enough, and your flash wouldn’t effectively reach them anyway; however, the flash will dull the atmosphere of the shot, thereby lessening its impact.
- Shoot at the lowest ISO for the best results. Turn off ISO AUTO because it will try to set a high ISO in the dark. If you have no idea what ISO is, forget about it.
- Focus on infinity. Shoot in full manual mode if you have the ability. Auto focus will only hurt you in this case. Set your focus to just less than infinity (or choose a landscape setting if you can’t manually adjust focus) and use an aperture of f/8 to f/16 since the light that the fireworks emit is quite bright. I find that apertures in the mid to small range tend to work reasonably well.
- Use long shutter speeds: 2-3 seconds or longer.
- Track Your Results. Throughout the fireworks display check your results every few minutes. Take a few shots at the beginning and do a quick check to see that they are ok before shooting any more. Don’t check after every shot (you’ll miss the action!) but check in periodically.
- If the fireworks start before it gets dark, use the sunset setting on your camera to get some shots at dusk.
- Use flash to get some audience and people shots. Those kinds of shots are my favorite
- If you won’t be seeing a display of fireworks this week but you have some of your own, remember that you can always make sparkler art in your backyard!
(I made this Harry Potter themed sparkler art last year!)
I hope these tips are helpful! Have a happy and safe holiday and feel free to send me your shots!