How to Photograph Fireworks

max3k

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I posted a little tutorial on fireworks photography on my blog this morning. Here it is for those who are interested.

With the 4th of July coming up this weekend all photographers get the opportunity to capture some glittery light in the sky. I thought I would share some tips on how to get fantastic shots of your favorite fireworks display.
What you'll need:
  • Camera - Preferably a DSLR
  • Lens - Depending on distance from show - I use either my 18-55 or my 24-70L
  • Tripod - This is a Must Have
  • Location, Location, Location
  • Batteries Charged - I'll tell you about this one later
To find the best location for picture taking, you can search online. Check out your local news website as well as any any photography forum you might be a member of. If you live in a larger city, there are bound to be several displays to choose from. As your friends on co-workers which show they visit and where might be the best place to setup. Find out where the launch point is for the show ahead of time. When choosing a location you want to be able to capture the horizon as well as the fireworks. Capturing the display along will generate some decent shots, but having a lake, or a city scape as a backdrop will dramatically increase your image quality.
Get to your spot early! I would recommend getting there about an hour early if not sooner. Setup camp there will a cooler full of water or whatever you plan on drinking. It's hot in July, don't get overheated. Setup your tripod and frame your image. Take some test shots toward the direction of your target. I like to use my autofocus when there is still daylight left, pick a point near the launch point, lock in the focal distance, and then turn off autofocus on the lens itself. Most cameras have a tough time focusing in the dark, so solve that problem ahead of time.
Settings for your DSLR should be as such:
  • ISO 100
  • Autofocus - Off
  • 2 second delay or use a remote trigger
  • Flash off
  • Aperture - F5.6 - F8
  • Shutter Speed - 1 Sec - 2 Sec
Your better shots are going to come in the beginning due to the accumulation of smoke from the shells. I hope this helps you get some great photos this weekend. Good luck!

PS - I was going to post some photos I shot last year, but they're on my other computer. Midway thru the show my camera died....I forgot to charge the batteries. Won't make that mistake again this year. Charge your batteries!

www.ExposingGod.com
 

tirediron

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Very good information. If I may, one erratum to your information on focusing. Select manual focus and pre-focus the lens to infinity. If you're lucky enough to have a lens with DoF graduations, then you can pre-focus using those based on your selected aperture, but otherwise, just set to infinity and you should be fine.
 

caged

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dang, you posted this a day too late for us canuks. if i had read this yesterday, i just might have tried your techniques.
 
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max3k

max3k

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sorry caged. i forgot canada even existed.... :sexywink:
 

caged

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ahhh, that's alright. there's always next year.
maybe i'll have to head to niagara falls on sunday.
 

KmH

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dang, you posted this a day too late for us canuks. if i had read this yesterday, i just might have tried your techniques.
There are only about 392,647 other places on line that have the same information for shooting fireworks. ;)
 

Bitter Jeweler

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4754112230_e0a243e00e_b.jpg
 
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max3k

max3k

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great shot!
 

SrBiscuit

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sweet.
someone should sticky this so we can avoid the annoying influx of "how do i get fireworks to look cool?" that will undoubtedly appear this weekend. :thumbup:

nice one bitt...wonderful colors!
 
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max3k

max3k

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i tried to be ahead of the requests. We'll see what happens
 

Josh66

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someone should sticky this so we can avoid the annoying influx of "how do i get fireworks to look cool?" that will undoubtedly appear this weekend.
It won't matter. It happens every year.

Hell, there probably is a sticky already.

A few days before and it's nothing but "how do I take firework pictures", a few days after it will be "here are my firework pictures".
 

burstintoflame81

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Also, try the bulb setting and try to include a good foreground object for silhouette similar to sunset shooting. Or non silhouette ( ie. The Disney Castle )
 

cfusionpm

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I've found that a 4-6 second shutter works a lot better than 1-2 seconds.
 

Josh66

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I just use Bulb. Open when they go up, close when it's done. Keep it open longer if you want more than one firework in the picture.
 

SrBiscuit

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someone should sticky this so we can avoid the annoying influx of "how do i get fireworks to look cool?" that will undoubtedly appear this weekend.
It won't matter. It happens every year.

Hell, there probably is a sticky already.

A few days before and it's nothing but "how do I take firework pictures", a few days after it will be "here are my firework pictures".

too true...followed by the inevitable "i tried to take fireworks pics on the 4th, and they are all blurry...what did i do wrong?" posts...:er:
 

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