i absolutely love playing around photographing fireworks whenever i get the chance, and over the last few years i've come up with a good method for capturing them. this is a post i have been wanting to write for awhile and i thought it would be perfect now since the 4th of july holiday is coming right up!
today i'm sharing my tips for a simple set up in order to successfully photograph fireworks. once you have these basic settings you'll be ready to go and you can play around with them to see what works best for you!
first thing first, you will need a dslr camera with a lens. i've mentioned before that my digital slr camera is a canon eos rebel t2i, and i alternate between three lenses depending where i am (50mm f/1.8 lens, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 zoom lens, and 55-250mm f/4-5.6 telephoto zoom lens).
i also have a tripod for my camera. when photographing fireworks, you need to be as stable as possible. i highly recommend using a tripod since you will be photographing with a very slow shutter speed and you want to avoid any movement. i consider myself to be someone who has a very stable hand, so i sometimes leave the tripod at home if i don't want to lug it around with me, but i really would recommend it if you are even a slight bit shaky. if you don't have a tripod, find something nearby to prop your camera up on, or lean your shooting arm on something solid in order to stabilize yourself.
before you photograph anything, you need to set up your shot. situate yourself in a good place to capture those fireworks. scout out locations in order to get the best vantage point. i typically reach for a long zoom lens when photographing fireworks because as a spectator you tend to sit far away from the fireworks and most times i want to see just the fireworks and nothing else in my image. however, sometimes i want to show my surroundings (like seeing cinderella's castle in front of the fireworks at walt disney world).
> be sure to shoot in manual mode so that you can control all of your settings.
> set your shutter speed between 3 to 5 seconds. shooting with a slow shutter speed produces the best fireworks pictures. i like to leave my shutter open for 3 to 5 seconds depending on the other light around me when i am shooting.
> set your aperture between F8 and F16. the reason i set the aperture so high is twofold: it helps to prevent overexposing the photo (since fireworks are super bright) and helps to keep those fireworks nice and sharp.
> set your ISO at 200. i keep the ISO low in order to avoid the photos looking grainy or noisy.
> manually focus each shot in order to assure everything is in focus.
i recommend to shoot during the start of the show to avoid the smoke that builds up as the fireworks go on. you will have cleaner photos this way with less in the background.
play around with it to time your shots perfectly to capture the fireworks as they burst. once a firework leaves the ground i follow it with my eye and anticipate its burst. i shoot just a moment before i think the firework will burst in order to get the whole firework in the picture. if i wait to shoot until after it bursts, i'm typically too late and end up with a picture of it bursting and falling.