Sep 26, 2004

Top Tips for Shooting Fireworks

Tip #1: Use a Tripod
First and foremost, you are going to need a tripod. There is no way around it. As your best shots will likely require several seconds of exposure, your camera will need to be securely mounted and perfectly still while you take each picture.

You will also want a way to take each picture without touching the camera. Many newer cameras use electric remote controls. If you don't have one, using the self-timer may suffice. Whatever works is fine... as long as it allows the camera to shoot without your finger shaking it.

Tip #2: Use the Right ISO
Use the lowest ISO setting your camera has. Faster ISOs will produce images with less color and more noise - exactly the opposite of what we want when taking pictures.

Tip #3: Choose Your Vantage Point
As when shooting sunsets and other panoramic views, it's often a good idea to include interesting, recognizable objects in your photo. A well-lit building or monument under a cascading burst of fireworks can send your picture far above the competition. When I shoot fireworks, I rarely go to the main center of attraction - you know, the place where they charge you admission and perhaps even sell concessions. Instead, scout out the area ahead of time and select a more distant vantage point, one that gives a good view of the festivities.

Tip #4: Timing and Shutter Speed
Before you get going, set your aperture to f/8 or a similar aperture. Wait until you see a missile projecting up into the air (or otherwise get the feeling that a burst is about to go off). Then open up your shutter (using the "bulb" mode). Leave it open for 4 to 20 seconds, varying exposures - I usually keep the shutter open until the particular blast I am photographing goes dark. If there is a lit object that you care about in the scene, take your meter reading from that. If not, experiment and have fun!