This was originally posted in 2009, but as I’m getting my tripod out, and charging up my camera batteries in preparation for the Independence day celebrations, I thought it might be appropriate to bring it back to the front page of the blog. I hope you find it helpful.
With the 4th of July Holiday coming up on Monday, I bet quite a few people are planning to go out and try to get some cool fireworks pictures …
While I am by no means an “expert” on fireworks photography, I have captured a few nice images over the years (including the one above). As such, I feel I’m qualified to offer up a few …
Tips for better fireworks photography this 4th of July
- Use a tripod. Keeping your camera steady is especially important when shooting at night, or with a longer exposure. (If you have a dSLR, you might also consider locking the mirror up, and using a remote shutter release device)
- Set your camera for a 1 to 5 second exposure. If your camera has the capability, you can use either “shutter priority”, or manual mode. If you have a point and shoot camera, set it to the “night-time scenery mode”. By using a longer exposure, not only will you avoid having to “guess” when the firework is going to explode in the sky; you’ll also be able to capture a sense of “motion”. The picture above was a 2 second exposure. Had it been taken at something like 1/200th of a second, all you would probably only see is a scattering of blue or possibly even white dots.
- Stop down to a smaller aperture. If you’re shooting in manual mode, don’t be afraid to stop down to F8.0 or even F11. The last thing you want when trying to shoot fireworks is a shallow depth of field … much better if the whole scene is in as sharp a focus as possible.
- Focus Manually. Speaking of focus, if your camera has the ability, set your focus to manual, find a good target off in the distance, and take a few practice shots before the actual fireworks show begins. No matter how good the auto focus function on your camera is, none of them work very well in the dark … you will end up with out-of-focus shots.
- Consider the Foreground and Background. Pictures of fireworks exploding in the dark sky can be dramatic and cool; but they have no context … they could have been taken anywhere. If there is a distinctive landmark or skyline that you can include your shots, it will definitely serve to enhance the story; and your memories.
- Take a lot of pictures. Fill up that memory card. No matter how well you prepare, your ratio of “throw-a-ways” to “keepers” is probably going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 or 15 to 1. And even those keepers will require some photoshop work … at the very least adjustments to white balance are likely to be needed.
- Have Fun! As easy as it can be sometimes when you have a camera “glued” to your face, don’t forget to pay attention to your family and friends … especially if you have kids. Mentally capturing that look of wonder on your son or daughter’s face as they watch the show is often way more rewarding than even the perfect digital image of colorful “bombs bursting in air”.
Well, that’s my advice for 4th of July photography. I hope you found it helpful … and I hope it assists you in getting some awesome fireworks shots this year.
Enjoy the holiday!