1. Use a tripod
Securing your camera ensures there’s no movement in your shot. Here are some of our favorite tripods:
2. Use a remote release or camera timer
Nothing ruins a great long exposure more than camera shake. Using a remote release or camera timer is another way to ensure that your camera is completely still. There are many remote release devices on the market that would be great to invest into. One of our favorite remote releases is MIOPS. But, anyone could also just use their self-timer feature that comes with most DSLR cameras.
3. Get creative with composition
The foreground element will make or break your shot… once you nail down your exposure and find the optimal combination of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO play around with your composition. Because no one is blown away by an image of JUST fireworks. How many times have you looked back at your 4th of July images of a plain sky with fireworks? Never? Us too.
Make your foreground POP with a handy light. The Lume Cube 2.0 should do the trick.
4. Focal Length
Shooting wide will allow you to capture the full environment of where you are, the amount of people around, and how grand the fireworks look in comparison. But man, we’ve seen some incredible firework shots using longer focal lengths. Play around with your foreground element and focal length to get a few different looks.
We recommend using manual focus with focus peaking. Once the first firework pops off, try to draw focus on the firework explosion. Then lock it into place for the entire show.
No expensive low light lenses needed here! An Aperture of f/8 - f/11 should do the trick and will allow most of your scene to be in focus.
7. Long Shutter Speed… But Not Too Long
Photographing fireworks is essentially long exposure photography… you are opening up your shutter and allowing the light from the fireworks to light paint the sky! Make sure you leave your shutter open long enough to capture the full light trails from the fireworks, but don’t leave it open for too long. Since you are shooting in the dark of night, it can be tempting to leave it open for long durations (say 20-30 seconds). It doesn’t take much to blow out your image and lose detail in the firework. At the end of the day you are capturing an explosion, so it can be quite bright. We recommend a shutter speed of 5-15 seconds (pending your aperture and ISO).
8. A Low ISO is the way to go
Since you will be using a tripod, you can use longer shutter speeds which allows you to keep the ISO low. This is the secret sauce to getting those crystal clear fire work shots. Beware, the images may look better than it does in real life.
9. Switch off your flash
If you have a flash, make sure it’s off. There’s no shortage of bright lights on the 4th, don’t blind your neighbor with a flash of your own.
10. Shoot in manual mode
Your camera’s auto settings aren’t designed to capture fireworks. You will want to shoot in manual mode so you can dial in your exposure to find the look you are going for!
11. Think Wind
You may be thinking, how could wind affect my image? If you play the wind wrong, you could end up with a bunch of hazy firework images. Make sure it goes: camera -> fireworks -> smoke or else you’ll end up with a bunch of haze.
Pro Tip: The first few fireworks are always the sharpest. Be ready to snap away!
12. Keep Shooting
Overshoot and pick your favorites in post. Long exposures take up more time than you’d think. If you’re shooting 20 second exposures, that means you can only pull off three images in a minute. With average firework shows lasting 5-15 minutes, well you do the math.
13. Keep the party going with Sparklers!
Once the main show is over, keep the content party rolling with sparklers. Kids love them, adults love them, the camera loves them. This is often the first experience with light painting for friends/family. This is your chance to blow their mind. Have them write their name with the sparkler and shoot a 15 second exposure.
14. Experiment and track results
The best piece of advice that we get from all of our photographers is to always try new techniques and see what works for you. Try a different ISO or focal length and see what you think. Some of the best results come from failing a bunch of times and then finally getting that perfect shot!
Now that you have some guidelines on how to take epic firework photos, get out there and see what you can capture! We would love to see what you create so make sure to tag us on Instagram and drop your recommendations in the comments below.