How to take photos of Fireworks

Bonfire night is nearly here, so I thought I would post a few useful tips for taking photos of them.  They are notoriously difficult to photograph well, so don’t be disheartened if you find it tricky to get that perfect shot.

Find your spot

You will want a decent amount of space rather than being in the middle of a crush of people, so it is worth getting to the display in good time to find your ideal spot.  Bear in mind that you will want to check your camera controls so you need to be somewhere with a little bit of light or to take along a torch so that you can see your camera buttons.

If you can find a location with a more interesting foreground or background then that is a bonus.  Fireworks themselves look great in photos but if there is foreground, even if it is just the backs of people’s heads, then this can add to the shot.

Fireworks South Korea

Beaconsfield 2011

 

Take the right camera kit

To take good fireworks photos you will need a tripod and ideally a remote shutter release.  In order to capture them well, your shutter speed will be quite slow so you cannot afford to have camera shake that will result from hand holding the camera.  Just a normal or wide angle lens will do the job better than a zoom lens.  Using a remote shutter release means that you don’t ‘jolt’ the camera by pressing the shutter – even this little movement can result in shaky photos.

Manual focus

This is one of the relatively rare occasions when you really want to turn the Auto focus on the camera OFF.  With the camera in manual focus, select a focus point very far away or set it to infinity.  Once this is set you don’t need to think about it any more.

Camera settings

I would suggest setting to a low ISO to avoid graininess in the image (eg 200) and an aperture of around f11.   You will need to experiment with the shutter speed and how long you need will depend on what fireworks are being set off – so it is a bit of a lottery as each one is different.  It’s really a case of trial and error and a little bit of luck as well, but typically you will have a shutter speed of between 1 and 5 seconds.  Obviously don’t use a flash and don’t have your camera in Auto or it will try to achieve a ‘well lit’ image which will be far too bright.

Enjoy the Display!

Try and enjoy the display.  It is easy to get so caught up in the technicalities of getting a great shot that actually you forget to watch and enjoy the fireworks display.  It’s only once a year, so make the most of it!

 

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