Capital Photography Center | Photography Classes in Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia

6 Tips for Photographing Fireworks

June 28, 2016 by Marie Joabar

1) FIND THE BEST LOCATION

- Take some time before the fireworks to scout out a good spot to shoot from.
- Since it’s best to photograph fireworks using a tripod, think about where you can position yourself with enough room for this.
- Look around the area for any landmarks you might want to include in your photos; an iconic statue or monument, people watching the display, etc.

2) EXPOSURE SETTINGS

- Fireworks require long exposure times, the key is to capture the intensely bright streaks of light without washing out the vivid color they display.
- Use the camera’s Manual Mode - Set your ISO to 100 or 200, adjust your aperture between ƒ/8 and 11 and the shutter to between ¼ second to 1 second as a starting point. Take a shot and adjust these if necessary. If the bursts are washed out, take away some light by setting a smaller aperture (f16) or using a faster shutter speed. If the bursts are too dark, add light by doing the opposite.
- To get multiple bursts in one exposure, get some black foam core or cloth and using the Bulb setting*, begin the exposure when the fireworks start with the foam core or cloth in front of the lens. Each time a burst is fired, move the foam core or cloth out of the way for a quick second or two to capture it. You'll end up with a frame filled with colorful bursts!

3) TRIPODS

- Mounting your camera on a sturdy tripod is especially important because of the long exposure time. If you don't have a tripod, try placing your camera on a solid platform, such as a fence post, a railing, or the top of your car. This will give you sharper images than if you try to hand hold. Depressing the shutter button can cause the camera to vibrate so use a cable release or the camera’s self timer.

4) FOCUS

- Since it’s difficult for cameras to find focus in the dark, try setting the focus to infinity, then turn off the Auto Focus. Once it’s set, you shouldn’t need to re-focus for each shot.

5) COMPOSITION

- Take photos both horizontally and vertically.
- Try composing images with foreground elements and multiple bursts in a horizontal frame. Long, narrow bursts look great in with a vertical frame.
- Make the most of the first few explosions. Fireworks leave behind smoke and by time the display is half way through, the smoke will be visible and will probably show your photos.

6) A BRIGHT IDEA

- It’s helpful to set up your camera as much as you can ahead of time and then make some final adjustments as needed when the fireworks go off.  Since you are going to be shooting at night in the dark, a small flashlight can be helpful.
Enjoy the holiday and have fun capturing the fireworks! Share your best shots on our Facebook Page. Instagram users, tag us @CapitalPhotographyCenter. We’d love to see what everyone shot so send them our way!
* With Bulb, the shutter remains open as long as you keep the shutter button depressed.