Elaine Li Fireworks Article

27.02.2018

How to shoot fireworks: 5 golden rules

written by:
Elaine Li

27.02.2018

How to shoot fireworks: 5 golden rules

  1. Find the best location to capture fireworks.

Firework displays always attract big crowds, so make sure you get there early to set up camp. I try to find places where you can get a variety of shots, where the photos look good when it’s close up or wide. Perhaps it could be an object or crowd in the foreground that can add to the composition, or use a tele lens and compress the depth so you fit more in the frame.

  1. Set up your tripod

Once you’re set on a spot, set up your tripod and either hang your bag on the hook under the tripod, or place some heavy bags around the legs of the tripod to avoid it being bumped around, making your photos blurry which can be really frustrating.

Elaine Li Fireworks Article

  1. Set a timer or use a remote trigger

Night photography always looks better when it’s set at low ISO to eradicate noise. When the ISO is low, you usually end up using a long shutter speed so as to let enough light enter the camera. It is very important to make sure that there are no movements, when the lens is capturing the shot. Not only is tripod a must, you should be using a timer or remote trigger as well. Without a timer or remote trigger, the camera might shake a little when you press the shutter button manually. I also use manual focus as some cameras have a hard time focusing at night. With manual control, you have a better grasp on your shot or the end result.

  1. Test settings in the first few seconds of the fireworks show. Make sure it doesn’t over expose

Preparation is key in shooting fireworks, since the shows are often quite short in terms of time. Make sure you have all the right settings set, and do enough tests before the show starts. One thing to note that is during test shots, the sky tends to be darker. But once the fireworks start, it lights up the sky and your photos may end up being over exposed. So the first few seconds of the fireworks are crucial to a perfect capture. Try to use the initial seconds to find out the best settings and then stick to one for the rest of the show.

Elaine Li Fireworks Article

  1. First few minutes are most important – least smoke. 

While the first few seconds is a good time to fiddle around with settings and settle onto one, it also is the grace period where the fireworks display is not engulfed by smoke. In my experience of shooting fireworks in Hong Kong, the smoke tends to be trapped between the harbour which creates this fuzzy overlay on the fireworks. Sometimes it looks cool, but most of the time it just adds a grey layer of ‘haze’, and can be annoying to clean up during editing. So grab hold of the first few minutes of the fireworks when the sky is still clear, to ensure clean and sharp shots. Below is a shot taken towards the end of the firework show, where smoke is quite apparent.

Elaine Li Fireworks Article

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading tips on how to shoot fireworks. Be sure to follow more of my work on Instagram www.instagram.com/lielaine!

Elaine Li

Hong Kong

Elaine is a Hong Kong-based art director and freelance photographer. She specializes in city and street photography, and is known for her urban exploration and rooftopping work. With her passion in photography and power of social media, she has garnered over 150k following on Instagram, and work with a variety of brands as a social influencer.

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