FIREWORKS PHOTOGRAPHY – Photography Tip #25

When it comes to photography, I think everyone who has ever picked up a camera and thought seriously about improving their picture-taking skills has a desire to capture some really nice shots of fireworks.  But if you’re like me, you’re early attempts were disastrous!!  However, with a little pre-shoot preparation you can find yourself capturing some very pleasing images this Independence Day!!

First, you must have a tripod!!  I cannot stress this enough because contrary to popular thinking, your shutter speed is going to be slow – not fast.

Next, you should have a remote shutter release cable.  You can get by without this piece of equipment, but it’s a little more of a hassle.  If you don’t have a shutter release cable, you will need to pre-set your shutter timer for a 2 second delay.  This will allow you to trip the shutter, but delay the action for two seconds – allowing any vibrations to settle before the shutter actually opens.

Of course, you will need a camera that allows for shutter settings, aperture settings, ISO settings, and well…you get the picture, don’t you?  You’ll need an SLR or a DSLR camera.

For this particular shoot, I decided upon my settings prior to my set-up.  This allowed me to prepare my camera before leaving my house.  Here’s what I did:

  • Disengaged the stability feature on my Canon 28-135mm zoom lens – the stability feature can actually cause minor distortion attempting to allow for vibration that won’t be there
  • Disengaged the auto-focus feature on my Canon lens – you don’t want your lens trying to auto-focus in the dark
  • Manually pre-set my focus to infinity
  • Pre-set my camera to manual (M) – you must be in total control
  • Pre-set my aperture to f/11 – you want a nice depth of field in case there are fireworks exploding in the background
  • Set the ISO on my Canon 50D to 100 – a high ISO will only add distracting noise to your image
  • Set the shutter delay for 2 seconds
  • Set the shutter speed for 4 seconds

Following these steps, I snapped a quick hand-held practice shot in my studio.  Yep!  Everything is dark and blurry – perfect!!  It would seem everything was set correctly.

Now I have to say, I have the luxury of seeing fireworks every night of the year!  Because of this, I knew I didn’t want to experiment in the field.  Yes, I was going to succeed or fail with these settings!

So again, my camera specifics are: Canon 50D, 56mm or 75mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100.

75mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

75mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

75mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56 mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

56mm, f/11, 4 sec, ISO 100

Again, I really didn’t want to make any exposure adjustments in the field for this shoot.  And after carefully viewing the first few shots, I knew no adjustments would be necessary.  I did have to re-position my camera slightly when the fireworks began because I was unsure exactly where they would begin their ascent.  Once that was done, I only adjusted my focal length one time to capture some closer shots.

My lesson learned on this shoot: for the finale (you know, when they fire off everything that’s remaining) the 4 second shutter speed washed out the image a bit.  There were just too many explosions.  I will adjust my shutter speed or stop down my lens when the finale begins next time.

I hope this helps anyone out there who will be making their first attempt at shooting fireworks this weekend!

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~ by photographyfree4all on June 28, 2011.

18 Responses to “FIREWORKS PHOTOGRAPHY – Photography Tip #25”

  1. My favorite part of July 4th holiday is photographing the fireworks. I usually adopt a similar strategy as you described with tripod, remote, and camera settings, although I do tweak it a little “in the field” if necessary for shutter speed and f/stop. I like the last one of your images best – so colorful!!

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  2. Excellent images! BTW- the same approach can be used to capture lightning dispays in an approaching storm. Thanks for sharing your techniques!

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  3. Thank you, Shelly! I’m realty glad you stopped by today! I would normally tweak a little…maybe. :). But, I do have this opportunity literally every night! When I saw the settings working, I just sat back, enjoyed the show, and snapped away! But, I should have tweaked the finale, like you said! But there was no time!

    🙂

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  4. Great shots Steve! Fireworks are always fun to shoot. Patience and timing are also factors to consider. I love the brilliant colors in that last one!

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  5. Thanks, Ted! Hey, thanks for the tip about lightening!! As often as I can shoot fireworks, it is truly a rare occasion when I have the opportunity to shoot lightning. Good to see you here again.

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  6. Beautiful !!!!

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  7. Hi Michael! Thanks for your comments! I know most people have already accomplished fireworks, but for the “Newbie” it felt really great!!!

    Good to see you again!

    🙂

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  8. Well thank you, Muss Betty! That says it all and I appreciate it!

    🙂

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  9. Very helpful (and great shots!). Thanks, Steve. 🙂

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  10. Nicely written – my only quibble would be that you do NOT need an SLR/DSLR… You can use Canon’s wonderful point and shoot, the G12 (or any of the earlier G series) and Nikon’s equivalent (and since I don’t shoot Nikon I’m not familiar with the #)….

    Regardless, the G series gives you enough control over the image that you can do the same thing with it as you would as the big DSLR… just not as fast. 😉

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  11. Thanks, Robin! Have a great holiday!

    🙂

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  12. Thanks for sharing that information, Derrick! That’s good to know. Good to see you here, again! Your comments always add and your information is always useful!! I really do appreciate that!
    🙂

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  13. It’s Canada Day here and there should be fireworks tonight so this is particularly timely. I appreciate the tutorial and the inspiration very much. Thank you!

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  14. I’m so glad, Cindy! Let me know how they turn out! I would love to see them! Happy Canada Day!!! (Is that what you say?)

    🙂

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  15. Wish I had seen this post prior to the 4th, great tips and beautiful work!

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  16. Hi Lilly! I’m just glad you stopped by today! I hope you’ll find the tips helpful. Here in Southern California, I can shoot fireworks every night of the year – thanks to Disneyland! That’s where I shot these. I hope you’ll stop by again.

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  17. Beautiful and simple article…now i realize the points i missed in my article…especially the point about turning off auto-focus…and VR…:)

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  18. I really thought your article was very good. And, your shots turned out great! This was my second attempt at fireworks. Believe me…so much better than my first!

    🙂

    Like

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