Fireworks displays are popular the world over. Bonfire Night in the United Kingdom, 4th of July in the USA and Chinese New Year to name but a few. A great firework photograph can look spectacular and be a brilliant memory of an occasion. However, just how to do you get that amazing photo. Here are Ian’s Studio 10 Steps to Stunning Fireworks Photographs.
- You need a tripod. The more solid it is the better. If you don’t want to carry a heavy tripod look for one with a hook on bottom of the stock so you can use your camera bag as ballast.
- Put your camera in Manual Mode – that’s “M” on the big dial.
- Set your ISO to ISO 100 – every camera does that a different way, if you don’t know how to do it on your camera check your manual.
- Set your aperture to f/8 – on some cameras you can do that with dial at the back, others you need to hold down a button then use the front dial.
- You will need a shutter speed of several seconds. If your camera has ‘bulb’ setting use that. “Bulb” keeps the shutter open for as long as you hold down the shutter release. If your camera doesn’t have a bulb mode set an exposure of about 4 seconds – that works reasonably well.
- If you have a remote trigger or cable release use it so that you don’t nudge the camera during the long exposure.
- Auto focus won’t find anything to focus on. So set you lens to manual focus and focus on infinity. While you are switching to manual focus, turn off image stabilisation. For long exposures on a tripod it will cause the image to be blurred.
- If you have a zoom lens, zoom out so that you are capturing a large section of the sky where the fireworks are firing. Give yourself more space than you need. It’s better to crop the image later than loose part of the blast off the edge of the frame.
- As you see the firework launch into the open the shutter as the blast expands to its climax release it again. For most fireworks that is about 4 seconds.
- Check the image on the back of your camera – depending on how bright the pyrotechnics are you may need to adjust the aperture. If you display your histogram you want the brightest part of the firework to be just short of the right hand side. If too far to the left open up your aperture – try f/6.3. If it is over exposed close down the aperture and try say f/11. You may need to do this a couple of time to get the right exposure for the display you are photographing.
Once you have the settings you need and you know the camera is pointing at the right bit of the sky you can relax, watch the display and just keep opening up the shutter as different fireworks light up the sky. And have some great photographic memories of your night out to look back on and share with friends and family.Hope you have a great Bonfire Night and don’t forget to share your pictures with us on Twitter or Facebook.