How to take perfect photos of fireworks time and time again
No matter what time of year it is you’re never far from a beautiful fireworks display making us all go “ahhhhhhhhhhh” and “ohhhhhhhhhh” like we’re five-years-old again.
Still, nothing quite captures the imagination than seeing the night sky illuminated with red, orange and blue trails everywhere, but catching these moments on camera can often leave a lot to be desired. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve looked through photos the day after a big firework celebration only for them to be dark and blurry.
However, taking photos of fireworks is actually a lot easier than you think. You just need to be prepared beforehand, follow these top tips and you’ll start taking perfect photos of fireworks time and time again. So, the next time you start hearing the wizz and bang of fireworks going off, grab your camera and capture the moment!
Before you’ve even got your camera out you’ve got to think of the composition and what photo you’re trying to take.
I always like scoping out an area where there’s a fireworks display way before the first fuse is even lit so I know what I want to be in the foreground and the background.
It’s always good to find the high point to give you an unobstructed view of proceedings and I find having something like a tree in the foreground adds a layer to the composition too.
1 Check the weather and wind direction
It’s always important to check the weather before any shoot. If it’s going to tip it down with rain or there’s going to be low lying fog, sometimes it’s a lot better to just leave the camera at home and enjoy the display without taking photos.
One thing that’s vital to check is the wind direction. If you’re directly downwind from where the fireworks explode then all the smoke is going to head straight in your direction creating a very messy photo. If you’re upwind of where the fireworks explode then you’re much more likely to get a cleaner photo.
2 Use a tripod and a wide-angle lens
To take the best photos of fireworks you’re going to need a tripod. I really like using the Manfrotto BeFree Live Carbon as it folds up and is easy to carry around in large crowds, but it still gives a very stable base.
With a tripod you can take long exposures of seconds (or even minutes) to capture the long light trails of a firework which is what we’re after.
Also, I’d always recommend using a wide-angle lens to capture a wide field of view. Then, when the fireworks display really kicks in, you’ll be able to see everything in your photo.
If you’ve got a remote shutter release or Wi-Fi with on your camera/phone, then it’s a good idea to use that too. Even the slightest movement or shake can cause your photos to blur so using a remote minimises this.
3 Play around with the settings
As it’s a night scene, it’s tempting to jack up the ISO to allow more light onto your camera’s sensor. However, I think shutter speed is the most important thing when it comes to taking photos of fireworks, so set your ISO to around 100-400.
Also, I’d recommend setting the aperture around f/8-f/11. Obviously you want everything to look pin sharp in the photo so this is a good range to use for that.
Finally, once you’ve set your ISO and aperture, you can then set your shutter speed.
I’d go for something like 10 seconds to capture a good burst of fireworks but a lot of it is trial and error. It’s always a good idea to take a few long-exposure photos before the firework display beings so you can see what your exposure settings are like and then you can adjust accordingly.
4 Turn off IS and AF
If your lens has image stabilisation (IS) built into it then turn it off. When shooting long exposures your IS is still trying to work and stabilise the image. This adds tiny vibrations which can eventually make your final photo blurry.
Also, turn off auto-focus and set your focus point to infinity, otherwise your camera will try and refocus every shot and you’ll end up with blurry images again.
5 Take your photos at the start of a show
If you want really clean and crisp shots, try and take all your photos at the start of the show. If you don’t, smoke and haze will build up making your composition look messy.
6 Use reflections
If you’re lucky enough to be taking photos over a lake or a river then the reflections on the water work really well. You usually get some really nice light patterns on the surface of the water and it adds another element to your photo.
Unfortunately when it comes to taking photos of fireworks a lot of it is trial and error – you’ve got to adapt to what’s going on around you and change your camera settings accordingly.
Still, these top tips for taking photos will set you on the right path and then it’s practice practice practice! Now go capture that perfect photo of fireworks!