Here in the U.K. The 4th of July tends to pass without many noticing a thing, whereas our brothers and sisters across the pond will have similar experiences on the 5th of November when our skies are alight with Standard fireworks as we remember Guy Fawkes’ plot to destroy the seat of the UK parliament. These events share one thing in common and it’s those awesome fireworks which illuminate our skies and send our pets running for cover!
Shooting fireworks is rewarding and surprisingly simple with the ability to make adjustments fast time while shooting. In this post I’ll sharey 8 top tips for shooting fireworks which you can use to capture the best photos and put your Facebook friends to shame!
1. Use a tripod
Essential for shooting fireworks is a decent, sturdy tripod to secure your camera and keep it stable when shooting on long shutter speeds. You need to capture the movement of the light to achieve great results, so any movement in the camera needs to be minimised.
2. Use a remote release
If you don’t have one, invest! These little gems come in all shapes and sizes, some wired, some wireless, some even controlled from your smartphone and set as intervalometers too. Essentially we’re minimising any camera movement much like we are by using a tripod, but by using a remote release we’re not touching the camera at all.
Quite often you’re shooting almost blind, so figuring out where to aim is essential for a decent composition. If you know the location well this can potentially be quite a simple task, however if you don’t it’s worth a good look around for those clutter objects we all know and loathe such as pylons and cables. Try and figure out as best you can where the fireworks are likely to go bang so you are looking at the correct bit of the sky and you know what falls on the horizon underneath them, and while we’re on that you should also take steps to make sure your horizon is straight.
Something I’ve learned about shooting fireworks is that despite thinking a fast aperture is best, this isn’t usually correct! Fireworks can be incredibly bright, incredibly quickly. The best aperture I’ve found is the middle of the road around the f9 mark.
5. Shutter Speed
The most important thing to get right when shooting fireworks is the shutter speed. Fireworks are moving light, and you have to carefully consider just how much movement you want to capture. Too little and you have little smears, too long and you have a glowing mess. You need to open your shutter just long enough to catch a trail and retain the moment. It can be worth using bulb mode and guesstimating when to open and close the shutter based on the brightness of the fireworks you see before you. Once you’ve done it a few times you’ll soon get the hang of it.
Check out displays near you and if you’re free, go get some practice in! If you live near Disney World you have absolutely no excuses! Set your focus, perhaps keep the shutter open for longer but use black card to hide the glass from the light and try to control which fireworks your camera sees, and take loads of photos to get the best to choose from! Once you’ve got your settings and composition sorted, enjoy the show!
One thing that you may have to retouch is the smoke. You can avoid this by positioning yourself upwind of the display, but if you get a lot of smoke in the photos you will have to get rid and clean it up. This tends to happen towards the tail end of the display. Another thing that retouching is good for is compositing the best fireworks you’ve shot into one beautiful photo by blending and overlaying the explosions or even just adding some rocket trails.
So there you have it, my 8 quick top tips for shooting fireworks. Enjoy the show!