October 2018

Fireworks Photography – Tips to Remember this November

Firework season is fast approaching. Whether you are planning to attend a large display somewhere, or are just going to be setting off a few fireworks with the neighbours, it’s usually a time that everyone really enjoys.

But the sad thing is that fireworks are one of those things that are really difficult to photograph. They are so spectacular in real life but usually just end up as blurry streaks of light when we try to photograph them.

Is this inevitable or are there ways that we can achieve some really spectacular fireworks photography this year?

Leo Francis

Here are Ten Tips that may help:

  • Find the best place
    Just like property, good photography is all about location, location, location. You need to find a place where you are close enough to see the fireworks really well and also have a good neutral background against which to photograph them.
  • Get there early
    The earlier in the proceedings you can get your shots, the better. This is because smoke residue will build up as the display goes on which will make it more difficult to capture clear shots. This is a shame as the more spectacular fireworks are often saved till the end: so you may need to do something a bit more arty with those (see point 5 below).
  • Keep a steady hand
    Because you are photographing a lot of movement it is really important to keep your hands as steady as you can. It is definitely worth considering using a tripod because you will then be able to hold your camera steady during the process. You could even use a remote to trigger the camera, enabling you concentrate on lining up some really great shots.
  • The exposure triangle – aperture
    To get really good shots – especially under trying conditions – you need to be aware of the “exposure triangle”. This is about how 3 components — aperture, shutter speed and ISO — work together to ensure that your camera has enough light. You need the right combination of the three to achieve perfect exposure. Aperture controls the amount of light coming into the camera lens. Try setting your camera to manual exposure with an f8 or f5.6 aperture. This should help to avoid the fireworks looking too streaky and overexposed.
  • The exposure triangle – shutter speed
    Shutter speed controls the length of time that you allow light to enter the camera lens. Generally, the slower the shutter speed the blurrier the image. So use a faster shutter speed if you are trying to capture a sharp shot, but if you want something more ethereal and arty then a slower shutter speed would be better. A lot of this comes down to trial and error so a bit of practice before the event can reap dividends.
  • The exposure triangle – ISO
    The ISO controls how much your camera can capture in low light. For photographing fireworks you can use the ISO effectively to lower your camera’s sensitivity to light. Try a setting of 100 or 200: this will increase your chances of getting good clean images rather than grainy ones. However, if it is a very dark night you may actually need to increase the ISO to get a decent exposure.
  • Get focused
    Rather than spend time fiddling with the camera focus during the event, spend time beforehand focussing your lens on where you are going to want to shoot, then turn the focus off. This will prevent your camera trying to refocus every shot and will give you the confidence that you have the focus you want. You won’t then need to change it unless you decide to move places or photograph shots from a different angle or distance.
  • But be flexible
    Having said that you can keep the same focus, if you start snapping early in the event then realise you misjudged the scale of the fireworks, it is worth taking a few minutes to readjust properly and expanding your frame either vertically or horizontally. Even if this means that you miss a few potential shots in the meantime, you will end up with a better quality result.
  • Zoom zoom
    If you have a zoom lens then this is an ideal opportunity to play around with it. Try different zooming techniques – fast and slow, more bursts and less. Also experiment with different backgrounds in the shots. You could end up with some amazing shots!
  • Telephoto
    Also if you have a telephoto lens then this will enable you to focus on smaller details in a larger scene. This can result in some effective abstract shots. Try aiming at where you think the action is going to happen and snap away: if you take enough shots you may well end up with something spectacular.

We hope that these tips enable you to capture some wonderful fireworks shots this November. Why not share some of your photos with us online? Tag us on Facebook or Twitter! And remember to check back here soon for more photography tips from Venture Studios.