Happy 4th of July everyone! And a special Happy Wedding Anniversary shout-out to this client family of mine! I've received a few questions from readers about taking photographs of fireworks. I'd like to share some images I've taken in a previous year as well as some tips for scoring your own brilliant fireworks photographs!
My first suggestion it to grab a good camera and spend a few minutes becoming familiar with the settings ahead of time before you are sitting in the dark watching the show. It would be helpful to have a camera that has a manual setting as well as a bulb setting. You will have to play around with the settings to get the right combination for your particular situation and available lighting, but there are a few good settings to use as a starting point.
For your settings, you will want to try an aperture that will give you more detail for the landscape and for fireworks. My suggestion is to experiment with f5.6, f8, f11. You will also want to set your ISO to a lower setting, such as 200 or 400. If possible, use a tripod. While you can balance your camera on a table or a car and get some good results you will have an easier and more consistent result using a tripod. A tripod will also allow you to position the camera at the right point in the sky ahead of time in the beginning of the show and to also set your focus. Once you have everything set up, you will want to either use the bulb setting to shoot the photographs or some of the slower shutter speeds on your camera. For me, I personally like the bulb setting. For the shots shown here, I waited until they shot the fireworks into the sky and just as it reached the right point I would click the shutter and hold it for a few counts until I was happy with the exposure. It may take a few shots to figure out what works, and if you get there ahead of time before the show begins you may be able to practice with the few rehearsal shots of fireworks the crew will set off.
Another thing to consider is your composition. Photoraphs of fireworks look amazing over water, with a skyline included, or something that helps to anchor the image. In this case I saw families and attendees watching from their cars and so I included that as part of the composition. Using elements like these help to tell a story about the time and place you were in while watching the fireworks display.
Try moving the fireworks off-center in the photograph for an interesting composition. If you are familiar with the rule of thirds then even better!
A few final tips... don't use flash, make sure this setting is turned off! Set your camera up with a good point of view, as well as someplace where you won't get a lot of people walking in front of your lens. A few minutes of prep and planning can help you obtain the dramatic fireworks photographs you desire. And finally, have fun! Play around with your settings to get the right combination!
Have a happy and safe 4th of July everyone!